BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS HAVE MULTIPLE CAUSES
As a parent, it is helpful to understand that there are multiple causes for everything our children and adolescents do and say. The normal human tendency as a parent is to try to boil explanations of behaviors down to one cause. However, this tendency can blind us to key factors that can make a huge difference in how we deal with our children when they are upset or act up. Looking for multiple feelings going on in the child will help in terms of knowing where you as the parent need to start when dealing with the situation.
So how do you know what some of the causes are for a child’s problem behavior? Well, you don’t. What I mean is you don’t know until you guess, ask, or explore possibilities with the child. How do you do that? Well, you literally throw out educated guesses to the child and see if they say yes to any of them.
For example, let’s take a child who doesn’t want to go to baseball practice and who starts to whine and pitch a fit when you tell them it’s time to start getting ready to go to practice. At that point, (assuming you aren’t already running late) it would be good to ask some questions about why they are pitching a fit instead of just ignoring the fit or saying they better straighten up right away. For example, Are you upset that your friends have to leave and go home right now because you have to go to baseball practice; Are you worried about getting hit by the ball at baseball practice; Do you feel sad when you strikeout/don’t catch the ball/etc. at practice; Are you real tired or real hungry right now?
While you may not get any response from your child, you may get one small piece of information that helps you begin to help them. For instance, if you find out your child/teen is hungry, you can get them a snack to eat in the car on the way to practice. Then you can ask them about other possible reasons (multiple causes) for their pitching a fit, like that they are scared about getting hit by the ball at practice. But if while trying to get them ready for practice you had just fussed at them for pitching the fit and not asked why they were upset, then the chance of finding a solution would be pretty small. Then what started out as a fit at home may turn into a fit at practice since they will have bottled up their upset feelings instead of letting them out by talking with you in the car. (Note: Some children/teens talk about their thoughts and feelings more than others. Still, the attempt by you to talk with them will communicate a loving interest in them.)
In summary, while it isn’t always easy to figure out why a child/teen is misbehaving, it can help you get to a solution quicker if you assume that there are multiple causes for the misbehavior. Take a few guesses at the causes and ask the child as in the above example. The more feelings you can help the child/teen become aware of, the more likely it is that they will feel understood. And feeling understood has a calming effect on all of us because it reassures us that we aren’t alone, that is, we are comforted that someone else knows what we are going through.
To schedule an appointment call (972) 934-1485
Home | Biography | Services | Parenting
Philosophy | Questions | Resources
Contact | Location
STEVE W. PATRICK, PSY.D.
4100 Spring Valley, Suite 511
Dallas, TX 75244