Misbehavior. That’s when you don’t act the way I want you to when I want you to. But what about when I do what I want when I want to do it? Some might call it personal prerogative. Others might say it’s a double standard. One of the interesting aspects of human behavior is that behavior is need-driven. Needs can be physical or spiritual, or perhaps a mixture of both. For example, our need for food fills a physical need, hunger, along with the spiritual needs of belonging, beauty and more. As long as we go about filling our needs in culturally appropriate ways, others consider us behaving. As soon as our needs inconvenience someone by creating an obstacle for the fulfillment of their needs…BOOM…our behavior transforms into misbehavior. For our children, who have not yet learned the cultural nuances of conduct, these crashes and clashes of unmet needs can create disturbances that adults label as misbehavior. Physical needs are the ones that we usually think of first when we are dealing with a clash of needs between child and adult. Is the child hungry, tired, sleepy, cold, etc.? And perhaps the adult, too? No wonder grandmothers around the world want to feed crabby people. Cookies with milk, along with predictable meal and bedtimes, keep life on an even keel. Taking care of our physical needs avoids considerable conflict. Meeting spiritual needs becomes trickier and more complex as spiritual needs involve the intellectual, emotional, physical as well as the spiritual parts of our beings. Spiritual needs include the following and more: activity, movement, exercise, creativity, exploration, orientation, belonging, acceptance, appreciation, becoming, celebration, closeness, community, consideration, contribution, emotional safety, empathy, honesty, love, reassurance, respect, support, trust, understanding, warmth, communication, inspiration, laughter, fun, imagination, to choose dreams, goals and values, create self-worth, create meaning, create an authentic person, create personal integrity, order, beauty, harmony, peace, repetition, precision and exactness. With so many needs to meet, we all can get needy quickly. We can be going around minding our own business, and then…Ka-Boom! Our needs smash into someone else’s. From a child’s point of view, there is no misbehavior, only actions for trying to meet personal needs. Let’s look at a few examples. The child running in the back aisle of the store? Meeting a need for movement and self-expression. The child giving an adult an imperious, ‘No!’? Meeting a need to become independent. The child refusing to go to bed? Meeting a need for adult attention. The child lashing out at friends? Perhaps meeting the need to be alone, to have time to collect thoughts or the need for protection. The next time there is a sonic boom in your life, as unmet needs move faster than the speed of sound, think about what unmet needs–yours and your child’s–have collided. Work towards a win-win solution in order for all parties to have their needs met, with no need for misbehaving.
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