I know that as parents we’ve all wondered, “Why the heck is she behaving this way?” Or “Why on earth can’t he just behave?”

I’d like to offer you some ideas today about common causes of a child’s misbehavior. I’ll also offer some pointers on how to address the misbehavior if you get a gut feel about the reason behind the misbehavior.

There’s a wonderful book called “The Parent’s Handbook” by Don Dinkmeyer and Gary D. McKay, that helps to demystify some of the reasons that kids misbehave. The authors suggest that the best way to determine the goal of your child’s misbehavior is to look at your own feeling and reaction to the situation and then see what your child’s response is after you try to correct the problem. The first four reasons that I’ll share with you come from the handbook. The others are mine.
Common Causes of Misbehavior

1. Attention. This is a very common root cause of misbehavior. You are likely to feel annoyed. Your child is likely to temporarily stop the misbehavior but then resume it again not long after. Your best strategy is to ignore the problem. Try focusing your praise and attention on positive behaviors that you want them to repeat. Try redirecting them. Also call a spade a spade and just tell them. “I see that you want my attention right now. Can you think of a positive way of getting my attention instead?"

2. Power. Oh, boy. Haven’t we all been there? As a parent you will likely feel angry and feel like your parental authority is being usurped. If your child complies, they’ll be defiant about it and if not, you’ll be engaged in a big power struggle with someone who wants to “win.” Try to find a way to gain your child’s cooperation. Be creative. Ask them to help you solve the problem. Look for a way that both parties can win by trying to involve your child in the solution.

3. Revenge. You will likely feel very hurt and want revenge, too! After you try to correct your child, they will keep trying to hurt you, emotionally. You can be honest with them and tell them that their words have hurt you and you are saddened by that. Reassure the child that s/he is still loved and look for ways to shore up your “attachment” by spending time alone with that child.

4. Display of Inadequacy. You may feel hopeless, or feel like giving up, too. Your child will likely be unresponsive to your immediate reassurances. This problem will take time to resolve because it’s a self-esteem issue. Stay positive! Focus on strengths. Praise even baby steps toward progress. Don’t give up on the child!

5. Imitation. You will probably feel embarrassed. The child may be confused when you try to correct the behavior. As we all know kids imitate us. They may not even understand that what they’re doing is wrong. If you’re the culprit modeling something inappropriate (ie.swearing, slamming doors) you have to change your behavior.

6. Testing. I bet a day doesn’t go by when we are not tested. You may feel tired or worn down. Your child may sense your weakness and continue as long as you might give in. Develop family rules that are most important to you. Those rules are non-negotiable. (Ie. No hitting, biting or kicking.) Agree before hand what the consequence will be, too, so you’re prepared with your response. Then enforce the consequence consistently so the child knows that you’re serious. Don’t cave on house rules.

7. Developmental Change. When your child starts kindergarten, for instance, the tension of making a developmental transition can come out as misbehavior. You may feel confused because things were going along smoothly for awhile and now this! The child will be resistant to your intervention because they’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know an appropriate way of expressing it. Approach the child with empathy and respect for the big changes they are undergoing. Try to help them put into words how stressful it can be. See if you need to adjust your rules to be more age-appropriate and look at ways to offer them more independence if they’re ready for it.

8. Tired, Hungry or Sick. Don’t underestimate the amount of misbehavior that can be attributed to these problems. Make sure your child is getting 10-12 hours of sleep a night consistently. Have a regular snack schedule and eliminate or cut back on activities when your child is recovering from an illness.

Author's Bio: 

Visit www.getparentinghelpnow.com to receive the free mini-course “The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make (and How to Avoid Them!) and find instant answers to 17 common parenting problems. Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist with 15 years experience helping families find solutions that work.

Visit getparentinghelpnow.com to receive the free mini-course “The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make (and How to Avoid Them!)

Additional Resources covering Parenting can be found at:

Website Directory for Parenting
Articles on Parenting
Products for Parenting
Discussion Board
Toni Schutta, the Official Guide to Parenting