“What’s that, Ms. Susan? Are you insane? What’s so good about misbehavior?”
Well, shocking as it may seem, we parents should actually be thankful for a little misbehavior from our children. Why? Because children are acquiring crucial skills and increasing their social awareness when they misbehave.
Misbehavior serves these seven essential functions:
- Through misbehavior, children learn what is safe and what is not.
- Misbehavior teaches children how to communicate in order to get their needs met.
- Misbehavior helps children learn what thoughts, feelings and behaviors are appropriate to have toward others.
- Misbehavior teaches children how to say yes to healthy things and no to unhealthy things.
- Misbehavior defines for children what is their business and what is not.
- Misbehavior teaches responsibility.
- Misbehavior provides children with opportunities to learn self-awareness and self discipline.
The other beautiful thing about misbehavior is that children get to express developmentally-appropriate behavior in the safety of their homes, so that when they fly from us in adulthood, they have tools and strategies to use.
While it might seem tempting to prevent misbehavior and discuss social norms with children in a calm way, this can defeat the purpose. First, more information is sent to a child’s brain through experience than through verbal instruction. Second, allowing kids the space and support to survive a meltdown allows them to practice new skills in a safe and loving environment, and gives us, as parents, the chance to help them develop coping skills to use when they aren’t at home. And finally, as most parents know, trying to stop misbehavior only earns you a lot more of it!
Knowing the importance of misbehavior can help us not feel judged by others when our children misbehave, or when we aren’t utilizing the skill of patience to work through the misbehavior. The next time our children throw themselves on the floor in Target, let them scream, rant and rave. (While they’re doing that, don’t forget to take a few breaths yourself, or you won’t be able to access the brilliance of your own frontal lobe!) And then, begin to offer children strategies and language to help them get their needs met appropriately. If you want to arm yourself with some strategies in advance, just come see me!
Information taken from Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey (Loving Guidance, Inc.)