When I was a kid, I loved watching private eye shows on TV, not because I particularly wanted to sit around watching people through binoculars all day but more because I am keenly interested in human nature. Also, TV P.I.’s often had cool cars. I settled and became a therapist instead.
When I was a kid, I loved watching private eye shows on TV, not because I particularly wanted to sit around watching people through binoculars all day but more because I am keenly interested in human nature. Also, TV P.I.’s often had cool cars. I settled and became a therapist instead. Same job really, but my preferred car turns out to be a station-wagon–no kidding.
Being a parent of children who are difficult to understand requires a similar skill set. Before you can intervene in a problem behavior you have to understand the meaning of it. That requires investigation.
The best way to start is to ask the question: Why does s/he do that?
Once you know the motivation, it will be easier to design a successful intervention–which means “meet their need.” When answering the question, take into consideration some of the following ideas:
- Dysregulation due to something in the environment.
- Dysregulation due to something inside the body.
- Dysregulation due to something imagined.
- Dysregulation due to the past.
- Dysregulation due to boredom.
- Dysregulation due to overstimulation.
- Dysregulation due to an anniversary.
- Dysregulation due to anticipation anxiety.
- Dysregulation due to change, transition, the beginning of a new school year.
- Dysregulation due to your dysregulation.
- To habitually control or manage fear/anxiety dysregulation.
- For love and connection.
- To feel powerful instead of powerless.
- To be mean and cruel for no reason (Tip: This is not a real motivation. Look deeper.)
- The opposite of whatever the child answers because our children do appreciate the rock lifted off and their motives discovered.
- Throw in some outlandish reason only a kid would think makes sense.
Make a couple of studied guesses. Prioritize the motivations that you think are the most likely and attempt to meet the need on the top of the list. If the problem behavior doesn’t change once you address what you think is the correct motivation, move down your list. You may have it wrong or there is more need there than meets the eye. Keep going. Eventually, you will begin to understand your child the way a detective understands the subject.
Hint: children rarely know why they do what they do and they are highly susceptible to what you tell them. Be careful what you tell them about themselves because over time that is what they will think about themselves.
Attention is not the only reason for behavior.
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