Looking beyond Behavior

All our actions are motivated by a goal. The same goes for behavior. All human behavior has a purpose. Sometimes we know what the purpose of a behavior is; sometimes we don’t. Children’s behavior (not necessarily misbehavior and tantrums) is often driven by a goal to feel belonged and significant - meaning, it's akin to saying, "Notice Me!".

Rudolph Dreikurs, whose contribution to child psychology is well known, says in his book, “Children: The Challenge” - “Since the child is a social being, his strongest motivation is the desire to belong. His security or lack of it depends upon his feeling of belonging within the group. This is his basic requirement. Everything he does is aimed at finding his place. From infancy on, he is very busy exploring methods of being a part of his family group. From his observations and his successes, he draws conclusions - not formed in words, but definite nonetheless - “Ah! This is how I can belong. This is how I can have significance.”

Children are expert observers but poor interpreters. Most of the times, they conclude wrong and form mistaken beliefs and hence devise mistaken methods to feel noticed in their environment.

So, the desire to belong is a basic one. But the method the child devises to feel significant is not one with reasoning. It’s just trial and error. If any behavior she does, helps her to achieve the goal to belong, that behavior sticks on – be it good or bad - that is for the adult to judge. What’s happening here is termed the “child’s private logic”. And it’s just that – private (difficult even for the child to interpret). For example, we can imagine private logic as an invisible bag. Inside the bag, the child carries beliefs about themselves, about the adults in their environment, and about the world outside. So the logic is a collection of these beliefs. And the child's behavior is linked to this private logic.

Positive Discipline tools delve deep into both the behavior and the belief behind the behavior, that can help the adult to positively redirect the child, towards changing their beliefs and behavior. This in turn, impacts the contents of the "invisible bag". When the bag is filled with rich experiences of encouragement and connection, the child automatically starts developing a much broader, positive, and resilient outlook!