Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

Reasons For Inappropriate Behavior Part 1

on May 2, 2013

The following examples are common reasons for kids’ misbehavior. They may be exhibited at one time or another during the growing years. The characteristics of each behavior may be seen at home, school, or in both environments.

Attention Seekers
If kids believe that they cannot get attention in a useful way, then they will seek it out by misbehaving. They will do something annoying, such as kicking a table leg, laughing out loud in class, or interrupting when you are talking to someone or when you are on the phone. Some kids seek attention in an entirely different way: they do nothing! For example, when told to do something whether at home or school, some just stare out the window, or continue doing what they were doing before the direction was given. Children who do nothing are not “acting out”, but they are still crying out for your attention in a way that they know how to.

Here are some strategies to use if your kids are attention seekers:
Ignore the annoying behavior. Don’t over react by raising your voice or throwing or slamming things. Don’t look upset in any way.

Give choices: “When mom is on the phone either watch TV or play in your room.”

If choices don’t work, do mention consequences: “If you continue to talk loud when I’m on the phone your TV time will be reduced tonight.” or “If you keep hitting your brother, your bedtime is 1 hour earlier tonight.”

If consequences are needed, don’t renege! Follow through on them, no matter what, even if you don’t want to use this method of teaching kids right from wrong. If you don’t keep your promise, you give kids license to ignore you again in the future. They will know that they can get away with it and will do what they want no matter what you say.

This is my action plan when kids seek attention inappropriately:

Control Seekers
When kids feel that the only way for them to belong is to be the “boss”, they are seeking control. These children not only want to be in charge of a situation, but they also desire to dominate and overrule adults. When kids tell you: “You can’t make me do that!” or throw a tantrum, they are attempting to force you to behave in a particular way. Frequently, your response to this misbehavior results in its escalation. When you get angry and fight back, it begins an argumentative cycle; but if you do give in, the behavior stops. Avoid acquiescense. It will only happen again if you yield to their control. Stressed responses further reinforce their misbehavior in this particular situation and future ones.

Successful strategies for dealing with control seekers.
Be silent at first. Then firmly explain what exceptable behavior should be.

Present consequences and follow through with them if the inappropriate behavior continues.

Leave, or have the child leave, the room or situation.

Do not confront kids who are seeking control.

Be patient and engage in another activity. They will soon come to the conclusion that the behaviors that they are displaying are not giving them the “payoff” that they were expecting. The behavior will then
be lessened or stopped altogether.

A common behavior for kids seeking control is talking back. Back talk is surely a sign that something is amiss in your adult-child relationship. Sometimes it occurs because kids are dealing with unsettling issues and do not know how to share them with adults, or ask them for help. However, regardless of the reason kids talk back, it is still very disrespectful. When they do it and get away with it, they receive the message that it is acceptable to be disrespectful to you and other adults.

Proper comunication is the key to remedying this very annoying habit. Act quickly and consistently when kids talk back, and state firmly that it is not acceptable behavior. It is especially important not to empower them by arguing about the issue that triggered it. When children are chronic back talkers, you have your work cut out for you. They not only need to know that back talk will not be tolerated; they need to be presented with a list of consequences that will occur if their disrespect continues.

Be very clear about the rules you set for kids. Set fair but firm limits for them. Then, if they push the limits and the rules are broken, you must follow through with those consequences if the inappropriate behavior is to be replaced with more appropriate ones. If for any reason you back down on the consequences or change them in any way, your attempt to change the behavior will fail!

This is my action plan when kids seek control inappropriately:

Next Blog post: Reasons For Inappropriate Behavior Part 2 will include Seeking Revenge and Giving Up.

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