“Children don’t misbehave, they simply behave to get their needs met.”
This quote comes from Dr. Thomas Gordon, but other psychologists and parent educators have said the same thing. Dr. Jane Nelsen devotes a whole section of her book, Positive Discipline, as well as lessons in her parenting classes to understanding children’s mistaken goals of behavior. The underlying concept is that behaviors like crying, whining, tantrums, lying, hitting, destroying property, etc. all stem from a child’s unmet need. There is something that child is needing that they’re not getting, so they behave in a way to try to meet those needs. Dr. Nelsen calls them “Mistaken Goals” because the child is often mistaken about how to behave in a way to meet their need
Last week, I saw a lady set a full cup of iced coffee next to her on the bench near where her 1-year-old daughter was toddling around. The little girl kept going over to it and picking it up, wanting to turn it over. The mom continually called her “naughty” and asked if she needed a time-out. If this mother understood the relationship between needs and behavior, she’d know that her daughter was not being naughty and that a time-out won’t solve anything. At one year old, this child’s need is to explore her environment using all of her senses; she is not misbehaving, she’s doing exactly what a one-year-old needs to do.
We all behave in ways to get what we need. If I need something to eat, I’ll go to the kitchen and make myself some food. If need some order in my life, I’ll clean my house. If I need a renewed sense of community, I’ll turn on my sociability as I make an effort to connect with friends and neighbors. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated, I might subconsciously distance myself from others as I attempt to carve out some alone time for myself (if I don’t realize what I need), or I might just say, “Hey, I need some alone time,” (if I do).
Continue reading “What is Misbehavior?”