Well certainly children sometimes behave in ways that we don’t like. They make messes, they break things, they hit their sibling, they won’t share, they have tantrums in the supermarket, they pester us when we are busy and they are loud when we want peace and quiet!
Parents usually say children are “misbehaving” when they are behaving in some way that the parent doesn’t like.
Strangely enough we don’t use this term when we are talking about other people in our life. It would be weird to say “my partner is misbehaving”! Misbehaviour is parent language, tied up somehow with the way we are viewing our kids. It also implies that children are choosing to behave that way despite knowing that we don’t like that behaviour.
Children don’t deliberately set out with the intention to make our lives miserable!
They are merely behaving in ways to get their own needs met. A toddler has a huge need for autonomy and exploration, this is why they are so fiercely independent and un-cooperative sometimes.
Or their behaviour is driven by some big feelings that the child doesn’t yet know how to manage. For example, a child who has recently acquired a new sibling has some very big feelings and fears about how much he is loved plus he doesn’t yet have to ability to regulate his strong emotions, this is why he may hit or treat his sibling roughly.
Sometimes the behaviour is simply the result of being a small immature human being who lacks information about the world!
What is needed is a shift in the way we view our children.
We need to look beyond their behaviour to the child underneath. We need to put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand what is going on for them. This change of perspective makes it easier to understand and fix the underlying issues causing the behaviour. It helps us figure out what is really going on. When we understand the child’s need for exploration, for example, we can find other ways to meet this need that don’t involve painting all over the walls!
This change of perspective also makes us more patient with children’s needs. When we see the world as they see it, we’re more likely to respond with kindness and respect. This helps them feel good about themselves and feel safe and connected to us and valued by us.
There are many ways we can let kids know about our own needs without labelling what they are doing as “misbehaviour”. When we see the problem as simply a conflict of needs, we can work WITH children to find ways to meet both their needs and ours.