The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Consider your child's motivation - Part 1: Power

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 1: Power

Children misbehave in a variety of ways, but they have only four common motivations for misbehavior: Power, Attention, Revenge, and Withdrawal. When a child acts up, consider the motivation, and you'll be better able to handle the behavior. I'll look at each one separately over the next four posts. 

POWER - Yesterday, I witnessed the following exchange between a mother and her daughter in the gym locker room... Mom wanted Julie to put her shoes on. Julie refused, whining she wanted Mom to put them on for her. (That last sentence is the clue to the motivation for the misbehavior.) Mom insisted that Julie is quite able to put her own shoes on. Julie became even more irate. Finally, Mom picks up Julie in the ultimate control move. Angry Mom and angry Julie leave the gym with Julie wailing and Mom stomping. How might that scenario have changed? If Mom had realized that Julie simpy wanted to regain control for some reason (sometimes we never know the reason, but we can see the motivation), then she should have stated her position, given a reason, and then offered choices: "Julie, you need to put your shoes on because your feet will get cold on the concrete outside. Which shoe do you want to put on first? (Or ... which shoe do you want to put on? I'll put on the other.) I'm willing to bet a million dollar inheritance that both would have left the gym hand in hand!

 Children may misbehave to show that they have control over their lives. Children want to do things for themselves and to think for themselves. If parents don’t let children have some power to make decisions when they are ready, children may misbehave by going against what their parents want them to do, as Julie did in the above scenario. If you feel like winning the fight or proving that you are the boss when your child misbehaves, the child is probably seeking power. There’s nothing wrong with a child wanting power over her parents – that’s a perfectly natural way for kids to behave. How you react as a parent determines how that power struggle will turn out. Look for a win-win compromise where both the child and the parent can feel in control. That usually happens with the guided choice I illustrated above.

This happens in classrooms and at home.  Too often, the teach dictates (yes, that's a form of the word dictator) what will happen next:  take out your books, do this worksheet, fill out this lab report, write down your homework assignment, line up for lunch, etc. etc. etc.  Teachers, think if ways to give control back to your students and I think you'll find that you'll regain some classroom management control in the process!

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!

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