(adapted from Jane Nelsen, Ed.D.’s POSITIVE DISCIPLINE)

A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.  The discouragement usually originates from beliefs and feelings of not belonging or not having significance.  Whether or not adults agree with children’s beliefs, they can help children by understanding their perceptions.  Children behave based on what they think is true, not what is actually true.

When children misbehave, they oftentimes enact one of the following goals/beliefs:

1)  Goal:  Attention

Belief:  “I belong only when I have constant attention.”

2)  Goal:  Power

Belief:  “I belong only when I am in power or winning or am not allowing you to win.”

3)  Goal:  Revenge

Belief:  “I can’t belong, but I can hurt others.”

4)  Goal:  Surrender/Assumed Inadequacy

Belief:  “It is not possible to belong, so I give up.”

So, how do we effectively respond?  How many of us feel like thinking positively when a child misbehaves?  Yelling and screaming usually engenders feelings of isolation and intensifies efforts for attention, power, revenge, and surrender.  Below, find effective responses for perceived goals:

1)  Attention — Ignore the behavior.  Redirect the behavior.  Implement logical consequences.  List choices.  Do the unexpected.  Offer encouragement.

2)  Power — Withdraw from power struggles.  Allow a cooling-off period. Persuade the child to engage in problem-solving.  Act.  Decide what you will do.  Offer encouragement.

3)  Revenge — Withdraw from revenge cycle with a cooling-off period. Persuade the child to engage in problem-solving.  Offer encouragement.

4)  Surrender — Avoid pity.  Identify and teach skills the child does not have or needs to develop.  Set up small successes.  Don’t give up.

Beyond these ideas, remember that there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EFFECTIVE DISCIPLINE.  If you find that you have been too tired, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, or guilty to plan and implement effective consequences, Ravita will assist you with creating a plan of response. Without proper motivation, many children are unlikely to comply with parents’ expectations.

For personalized assistance with incorporating these concepts, call (919-266-4646) or email ( Ravita for an appointment.