Why Does My Child Misbehave?

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When children are given the opportunity to succeed, they generally will. According to author Rudolf Dreikurs, “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child”.
Children tend to want to do well, and they want to be successful. As parents, caregivers, or other significant adults in a child’s life, it is our job to do our best to see to it that that happens. Dreikurs talks about the Four Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior: Attention, Power, Revenge, and Inadequacy. These are the things children do to get and unmet need met:





1.  Attention: To be noticed
2.  Power: To be the boss
3.  Revenge: So you can feel as badly as I feel
4.  Inadequacy: To be left alone or feeling discouraged

Below are some charts to explain the Four Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior. These charts describe what your child may be actually needing from you, and ways to respond to your child to help them get their needs met in healthy, adaptive ways.


Please note that children are generally not AWARE that they are doing these four things when they are doing them. It is not intentional until younger children are older. These behaviors are almost a reflex to not having their needs met. It is also assumed that children are well-rested, fed, etc. when considering the Four Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior.

Children do best when they are encouraged and when they feel that they are being successful. Dreikurs states, “ A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water”. Finding everyday ways to help encourage your child to succeed is essential when helping little humans grow into young adults.

What are some barriers you face when trying to help your child be successful?

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