Positive Parenting

Decoding Four Needs Behind Misbehavior

Does your child’s behavior ever drive you bonkers?  Do you find yourself not only questioning your child, but also your own ability as a parent?  You’re not alone.

An important value of “positive parenting” is the willingness to separate the behavior from the child.  A helpful way to do this is to view the misbehavior as a form of communication — a dysfunctional way the child is trying tell you they have an unmet need.  Four major needs behind misbehavior are Attention, Power, Revenge, and Inadequacy. By understanding the need your child is trying to meet you can assist them in filling that need, and therefore eliminate the acting-out behavior.

Do you think a need for Attention, Power, Revenge, or Inadequacy could be driving a common parent/child struggle in your home?  Answer the following quick questions with the choice that best suites you to discover what need may be behind your struggles:

When dealing with this issue, you feel:

  1. Annoyed, Irritated, Worried, Guilty
  2. Challenged, Provoked, Defeated
  3. Hurt, Disappointed
  4. Despair, Hopeless

When corrected, the child often responds by:

  1. Temporarily stops misbehavior while parent address it, but starts up again
  2. Intensifies actions, tries to gain control over parent
  3. Tries to get even, acts unlikable
  4. Shuts down, acts helpless


Choice 1 for both questions illustrate the need for Attention.  Choice 2- Power, Choice 3 – Revenge, Choice 4- Inadequacy.

Once you have an idea of the need behind your child’s misbehavior, you can address it proactively and help avoid misbehavior.  Not only does this lead to greater peace in your home, but it also builds a deeper relationship with your child.  You can also use the knowledge of their need to teach them to assertively meet their own needs in healthy ways.

Stay tuned for more about Mistaken Goals and simple ways to help meet your child’s needs.