A child misbehaves for many reasons and parents have to understand so they can respond appropriately. One way to figure out why the child is not behaving well is to be aware your own reactions to your child’s misbehavior and see how your child reacts to your attempts to correct him or her. The child’s reaction will indicate the purpose of his or her misconduct.
Child psychiatrist Rudolf Dreikurs categorized the goals of misbehavior as the following: attention, power, revenge, and inadequacy.
If parents fail to spend much or any time at all with their child, then the child will soon find ways to catch their attention and usually do so in a negative way, such as doing something they know you don’t like or is against your rules. Once they notice that this is the only time you pay any attention to them, they will continue to misbehave just so they get your attention. The trick for this type of misbehavior is to simply ignore bad or unwanted behavior and instead pay them attention when they are behaving well, like when you see them studying their lesson or doing their homework. Ask them how their day at school was or if they have any questions that you could help them with. When you see them playing by themselves quietly or sharing toys with their siblings, compliment them and give them a hug. Another way to prevent this type of behavior from even cropping up in the first place by spending time with them to interact, talk, play, and do things together. Both parents should show their love and appreciation by making one-on-one time for each child and demonstrating affirmation and acceptance to their children. If your child receives enough attention and positive interaction with you daily, then there will no longer be a need to misbehave. A child who feels loved (completely contrary to being spoiled) by his parents will naturally want to try and please the parent by being obedient and pleasant instead of disobedient and defiant.
The issue of power struggles usually arises during toddlerhood and may again peak during the teenage years. If parents are too strict and controlling, the child or teen may become more hardheaded and defiant as they try their best to assert themselves, their wishes, their opinions, and what they want. At this point, parents need to back down from such a battle and not get mad or impose parental authority, but instead provide the child or teen with choices. Give them the opportunity to negotiate with you for what they want in a more relaxed and friendly manner. This will catch them off guard and make them realize there is really no need to fight with you about who the boss is or who is right, but rather identify common goals and arrive at an amicable compromise where both parties—parent and child or teen—relatively satisfied and happy with their agreed resolution of the conflict.
If parents are too rigid and don’t listen to the side or complaints of their children or teens, and insist only on what they want without allowing their child or teen to express his or her opinions or allow them to express their side of the argument, they will stifle the child or teen’s individuality and make him feel angry and resentful to the point that they will seek revenge by defying the rules regardless of threatened consequences or punishment. This may lead parents to seek more drastic measures and a series of more severe misconduct may ensue, to the point where parents end up either seeking professional help, giving up, or maybe even physically hurting their kids inappropriately. Thus, a lot of complications set in and the parent-child relationship may become severely damaged. Parents should definitely try to avoid this problem in the first place by establishing a close relationship with their child. They may need to check with your child or teen if the rules are still adaptable for their age and perhaps even solicit their suggestions on what consequence should be given if the children misbehave. This way, they will feel that their parents respect them and are looking after their welfare.
When children feel that it is useless expressing themselves or asserting what they want, they will simply give up and just keep quiet—seemingly compliant, bordering submissive, totally discouraged and underachieving. If a child feels inadequate, parents need to be more sensitive to their child’s feelings and focus on their assets and strengths and them know that they appreciate and love them, instead of being so critical.
Misbehavior, in general, can be prevented if parents keep a positive relationship with their children based on mutual respect for each other as individual persons even when they are still young, taking time to just enjoy each other’s company and getting to know each other as individuals, appreciating the positive traits or unique talents while patiently accepting their child’s weaknesses, encouraging the child to pursue and develop their interests, and showing them through words and actions just how much they are truly loved. Taking time to talk and be together is more important and better appreciated than just giving money or material gifts to your children, which will just make them more materialistic and view parents as merely a source of income rather than of love.