Attention Getting Misbehavior

By: KellyAnn Bonnell, MA

I have two beautiful children who behave perfectly at all times. They never talk back, never fight with their peers and ALWAYS do what they are told. And if you believe that, I have some great swampland for sale, cheap.

Parenting is a daily struggle in our household; one, which on good days, is taken head on utilizing the best approaches from the nation's experts. On the other days, well, we just survive; and later, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we learn from our mistakes.

Yesterday was one of those light bulb moments in the area of my parenting skills. On Sunday, we had had a behavior experience new to our household. My five-year-old son had punched a child in the stomach for no apparent reason while playing on the playground. I had the horrifying experience of meeting this child's father as he brought my son to me and told me what had happened. Now my son is bossy, I'll admit that; but he has never been a physically aggressive child. I helped my son resolve this issue with the child, removed him from the playground, which was the logical consequence for the behavior after he had asked the little girl what she felt he could do to make it better, and spent the rest of the evening struggling with why he would behave in such a manner.

I was still struggling with this issue the next morning when I began inputting the week two lesson the email STEP class. The topic of the class was goals of misbehavior and creating a better relationship with your children. The light bulb came on.

My son feels most like he belongs in our family when we spend time with him. Unfortunately, I have been extremely busy this week with work and have had to put in many hours beyond my normal work schedule. On several occasions during the week he had asked me for my attention and I have refused. Based on this knowledge of my child and the week leading up to the aggressive behavior, I have to conclude that since he could not gain my attention in positive ways, he chose to do so by hitting another child. Well, I have to tell you, he certainly caught my attention.

Understanding what precipitated his behavior does not excuse it, nor does it result in a discipline for the negative behavior that occurred on the playground. It does, however, help me to realize that I have the ability to prevent attention getting misbehavior by giving my child the attention he needs to feel he belongs in our family. In the past few days, I have made time for him each day and he is much easier to handle across the board.

KellyAnn Bonnell provides professional, one-on-one parent education and support

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