One of our most fundamental needs as human beings is to feel we belong. A child’s misbehavior is driven, not by a desire to displease the parent (whose loving acceptance s/he craves more than anything in the world), but by an unconscious need for attention and belonging (even if that is to be achieved in negative ways).
As children mature, they will unconsciously attempt to find that sense of belonging, their place in the family; the approach they take will be based on several factors: their birth-order position in the family; the parenting approach and style; the child’s unique nature and temperament; and the social/cultural/economic environment. These factors help shape the way children view themselves and how they express themselves when they sense their need to belong is not being met.
Thinking along these lines, then, the antidote to misbehavior (drawn from both the theoretical underpinnings and the very practical approach of the Positive Discipline movement) can be summed up in a few prescriptions:
- Help your child feel a sense of connection, belonging and significance;
- Relate to your child with kindness and firmness, in a mutually respectful and encouraging manner;
- Consider what your child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world;
- Teach your child important social and life skills;
- Invite your child to discover how capable s/he is.