Misbehavior and CLUE (Cont.)

Growing Years“Children do not misbehave because they want to be bad.” A child’s expressive behavior begins in infancy, continues into childhood, and burst into the teenage years with a vengeance. You now know to seek out the etiology (who, what, when, where) of the behavior. Now, I will call this process, CLUE, after the old game we loved to play as a child….or adult. As in the game, we must become good detectives. Now, if you are a master of the game CLUE, you will be ahead of this game. If you’ve never played the game, it’s time to learn. You simple ask the questions who, what, when, and where.

A profoundly true statement is: “Negative behaviors are learned”. Often we encourage negative behavior by rewarding it. This brings us to the older child. Never reward tantrums. Teach your child to ask for things in an appropriate way. Ignore the tantrum. Give it no audience and it will eventually go away. If you believe your child will be harmed by the actions of the tantrum, place him/her in a safe environment and/or hold them close to you until the tantrum is over. Do not communicate during the tantrum. To prevent tantrums learn to communicate in a positive way with your child. Remember, children do not want to misbehave. They want our attention.

The child wants to communicate something. They may have great language skills, but still not have the necessary social and emotional skills to always “get it right.” We must use our newly developed detective skills to determine the “who, what, when, and where” of the behavior. As in CLUE, ask questions to determine what is going on. “Show me,” “tell me,” and “I understand,” are great tools to keep in our communication bag. Thank your child for helping you work through the process of understanding his/her needs. Try to meet the need or explain “why not” to your child. Offer alternative solutions. Sometimes compromising is the best solution. Remember, the child is not trying to misbehave.

Yes, but what about the teenager? Are you sure they are not trying to misbehave? Shockingly, the answer is the same. They are just trying to communicate. Because they are older, the behaviors may be more drastic, but the intent is the same. When the behavior arises, just calm down and play CLUE.  Is it attention they want? Is it understanding? What do they want? Do they really know? Can they express their need? Teenagers are still developing social and emotional skills. Even though they present with a good front, their emotions may be all over the page. It is important to be a good listener. It is important to communicate without emotion. It is important to be a good detective and find the answers to the questions in the game. It is important to let your child know you care about what matters to him/her.

While I have not answered all questions you may have about your child’s behaviors, you have learned to play CLUE, and recognize your child’s behavior as a means to communicate. Will you always be able to answer the questions? Just like the game, you will win some and lose some, but you will advance your skills every time you play.