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Parenting Guide Sheets
15. Misbehaviour

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Page 15A
Introducing this Page
The purpose of this page is to consider how to remedy misbehaviour, i.e. what you do when it happens. However you need to be warned we are going to look at different schools of psychology to determine both causes of misbehaviour and how we may address it.
Don't be put off by the talk of psychology; it just explains behaviour! So all we're going to do is try to explain WHY our children misbehave as a means of assessing how we should respond to them.

We will suggest a variety of means of bringing remedial discipline on the next page, but please do read the early sections which we have sought to make as simple as possible. There is a lot to read though but we hope you will find it worthwhile.
1. The Psychology of Misbehaviour
a) How YOU view it
b) The Desire to Belong
c) The Rewards of Good Behaviour
d) Learning from each School
2. The Mistaken Goals that produce Misbehaviour
a) To Get Attention
b) To Exert Power
c) To Get Revenge
d) To Express Inadequacy     
3. Other Considerations
a) The Other Side of the Coin
b) Requirements for this to Work
c) Is this all there is?
d) Look again at your child

1. The Psychology of Misbehaviour
a) How YOU view it
Essentially there must be only a limited number of ways that you will view the misbehaviour of your child. The following are some of the main likely views:
i) A random response to circumstances, for which there is no meaning
· Well if you do believe this, the situation is hopeless and stop reading now!
ii) My child is determined by their genes and by circumstances and are fixed in their outcomes
· Genes suggest a tendency towards a certain behaviour, but only a tendency.
· Fixed outcomes suggest no free will, yet everything else we do suggests we do have genuine choices. You and your children can make choices!
iii) My child is a selfish little sinner who is out to get his own way
· If you think like this you will be on a constant war footing!
· Such a view probably promotes bad behaviour rather than merely explain it!
iv) There are reasons for my child's misbehaviour
· We need to think behind the outward action to understand the motivation for it.
· Understanding motivation leads to a way of properly responding to it.
If we subscribe to idea that there are reasons behind a child's misbehaviour (which is a most likely workable approach) then we have the question, how do we find out such reasons?
b) The Desire to Belong
A currently high profile answer to this came from the work of Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs, who worked with Alfred Adler, one of the really early pioneering psychologists, from which you may hear of Adlerian Theories.
Adler emphasised the social basis of human behaviour, suggesting we all want to belong and be accepted. Now this, of course, is something we have emphasised on the page on Self-Esteem.
Classic examples of this are the desires of your child to belong to a Club, or a gang, and when they become a teenager, to be accepted by their particular ‘peer group'.
Your child, as a baby will, hopefully, be brought up by you in an environment of loving care. In this environment they will know they are loved, are accepted and belong.
However because we (and they) are imperfect, there will be times when, because of the pressures on our lives, they may question that.
Dreikurs suggested that misbehaviour occurred when a child pursues one or more of four mistaken goals of behaviour:
· the need to get attention
· the need to exert power
· the need to get revenge
· the need to express inadequacy
Others have suggested adding to those excitement, peer acceptance and superiority.
c) The Rewards of Good Behaviour
Although we are going to focus on Dreikurs four mistaken goals in a moment, we should also mention another school of psychology, the behaviourists.
Behaviourists basically maintain that living creatures respond to pain or pleasure and therefore:

· negative behaviour can be discouraged by unpleasant consequences, and

· good behaviour can be reinforced by the rewards of encouragement and praise which go right back to Pavlov and his rats. (If you don't know about him, don't worry!)
Behaviourists will indeed start by looking at the cause of the behaviour, the stimulus that sparked off the misbehaviour, and may suggest that not only does a certain sort of pleasure (the consequence) cause the misbehaviour to be repeated and continued so that needs addressing, but also if you change or remove the originating stimulus or cause that provoked it, this also will change the behaviour.
Put simply, to change the misbehaviour:
· see what triggered it (the cause) and see if that can be changed and
· see what pleasure your child gets from it (the consequence) and see if that can be changed.
d) Learning from Both Schools
We will see that, in fact, most successful parents use a combination of both approaches although, we suggest, the former approach has most to offer us as we continue to think through misbehaviour.
Continue to Part 2 of this Page  

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