Carol the Coach: The Four Goals of Misbehavior

The parents that I work with say "If I only had a formula that I could use that I knew would teach my kids good behavior." What I know to be true is that although there is no formula that works for everyone... there is a formula that typically works for the majority of kids. The formula comes from Systematic Training for Effective Parenting and it works from the premise that there are four goals of misbehavior: Power, Attention, Revenge, and Feelings of Inadequacy.

This program is based on the premise that children act out for one of four reasons and the easiest way to determine the misbehavior is to look at your own feelings. For example:

If you as a parent are feeling anger…your child is misbehaving for power. If you are feeling annoyed or irritated...your child is misbehaving for attention. If you're feeling like giving up…Your child is likely feeling inadequate. And if you're feeling hurt by your child's misbehavior your child is more than likely seeking revenge.

Although this method sounds simple, it can be very difficult to identify what your primary feeling is but once you get the hang of it, you realize that once you've determined your feeling you can then correlate it to the goal of misbehavior. This allows you to pick the proper consequence and action that will send your children clear messages that their behavior is unexceptionable.

The trick to good parenting is centering yourself and disengagement. Regardless of your feeling you must then "detach with love." That means that you disengage from misbehavior to determine the consequences. When you do this it not only gives you some time to move away from the situation but it disengages your child from you. Next you come up with a consequence that meets the goal of misbehavior. The consequences should relate to the misbehavior so that they teach your child a lesson.

For instance if your child is refusing to brush her teeth… And you're feeling like giving up, rest assured your child is feeling inadequate also. After you disengage from the behavior you realize I can't make my child brush her teeth but I can stop buying any sweet snacks that will contribute to tooth decay. You calmly explain to your child that she has a choice whether she practices morning and evening tooth brushing, however you will stop buying sweets and snacks until she can assure you that she is helping you to keep dental bills down and learning how to take care of her teeth.

Now let's take an even tougher situation. Your child is refusing to go to bed at night and in a fit of fury he tells you how much he hates you. You identify that you're feeling hurt by his words and therefore your child is misbehaving for revenge. You disengage from the situation and decide what consequence would meet the misbehavior of not going to bed in a timely fashion. You explain to your child that you will need him to wind down sooner so that he feels ready to go to bed. So to do this you're taking away his game boy, his computer and his television privileges, until he learns to be in bed by the allotted time. You do this with regularity and you do not respond to the power struggling that may occur for the next few days. Practicing the art of disengagement is perhaps one of the greatest skills you can learn as a parent!

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