I’m sure we’ve all said it. Why does my kid do that? I have, and I know the answer! Kids do some crazy and annoying shit. Hell, adults do some crazy and annoying shit! What I’m about to tell you goes for both. Knowing why someone engages in a certain behavior will sometimes allow you to view the situation from a different angle. If you understand why your child is doing something, you can better respond in a way that will benefit both of you.
Believe it or not, there are only four reasons we as humans (even tiny humans) engage in a behavior.
This is such a common function for children’s behavior. It’s very important to remember that for little ones, attention is attention is attention. And, the more elaborate and intense the attention, the better. Some children would rather be yelled at than not because, that’s one on one attention. So, don’t assume a child isn’t engaging in a behavior for attention simply because the attention they are getting isn’t necessarily pleasant. For example, a child may act out in class because they then get attention from their teacher. Or, they get attention from their parents when they are reprimanded for the behavior they displayed in class. Another example is a child who acts aggressive towards a sibling, may be in order to get direct attention from a parent. This is incredibly common of an older sibling when a new one comes along. But, that is an entire other post.
This is another very common function of children’s behavior. Sometimes they are trying to get something. A toy, a food item, etc. I’m not going to lie, I have totally given in and let my toddler have a cookie or toy or whatever because I just didn’t have it in me to listen to him scream about it. But, ideally, if a child is engaging in a behavior you don’t like in order to get an item, the last thing you want to do is give them that item while they are engaging in said behavior. This will teach them that this behavior can give them access to items they want.
Think of homework time. You’re sitting at the table and your child is fidgeting, refusing to focus, attempting to distract you. He or she is trying to get out of doing homework. Trying to escape. Think of bedtime. Your child wants just one more drink of water, just one more hug. They have to go to the bathroom or do something else that will help them avoid going to bed.
This is one of the most difficult functions of behavior to deal with. With this function, the person is looking for some sort of sensory input. This is what drives self-stimulatory behaviors such as shaking your leg or twirling your hair. The reason this function is so difficult to address is you can’t always keep a person from engaging in a behavior that will meet this function.
Now that you have a better understanding of why your kid is doing “that”, the next step is to understand why they keep doing it. Stay tuned for a follow-up post on just that.
ETA: Looking for that follow up post? It’s right here!
Please feel free to ask for clarification in the comments. I claim, and will continue to claim, chronic mama brain.
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