How to Make Meaning of your Child’s “Bad” Behavior and Know What to do about It

This article provides an idea that may help you grasp the meaning of your child’s “bad” behavior. “Bad” is in quotation marks because there may be “good” underlying the behavior, if you’re willing to consider it. For the purpose of this article the types of behavior being addressed here are any version of outspoken and dominating behaviors.

Here is a real-life example: 1) “My daughter refuses to go to school. She bangs me on the head with a winter boot. She hollers that she’s not happy at home. She says she wants to run away.”

Before reading on, this would be a good time to write down any of your child’s similar behaviors that you’d like to understand better.

Here’s the idea. Take what you wrote down. Re-write it by reversing the pronouns. The above example now becomes: “I refuse to go to school. I bang myself on the head with a winter boot. I holler that I’m not happy at home. I say I want to run away.” Now, re-read this metaphorically. The more intuitive, honest, and truly interested you are, the better it will work. Our example, from a mom who had given up work to devote herself solely to her children, became something like: “I refuse to go to (work). I’m hurting myself. I’m suppressing (screaming inside) the fact that I’m not happy at home. I’m suppressing (saying inside) that I want to run away.” Very quickly the child’s behavior took on powerful meaning for the mother. The mom promptly went about finding a work/home balance. Her daughter’s behavior improved immediately.

Here’s another example. Mom writes: “My son writhes on the sofa hollering that he’s desperately hungry. He’s so hungry that he can’t get up to get the food available to him. He blames me for never feeding him!” Re-written with pronoun reversal it becomes: “I writhe on the sofa hollering that I’m desperately hungry. I’m so hungry that I can’t even get the food available to me. I blame him for never feeding me!”. Read metaphorically, it reads: “I am in agony as I’m desperate for nourishment. I’m so starved that I don’t even use the resources available to me. I blame my son for not taking care of my needs!” Very quickly, again, this child’s behavior takes on powerful meaning for the mother. Here, the mother went about making sure her nurturing needs were met. Her son’s behavior improved immediately.

The skill in finding meaning in our children’s behavior is so powerful that it is almost spooky. No, not all behavior reflects parent needs. However, for times like the ones described above, this is a very handy trick to help improve your family life!   There’s much more to this strategy of course, but the above may be enough to get you started. Janita Venema  has developed an entire program and therapeutic approach around this idea, the basics of which are also found within Heilkunst. Ultimately, it comes down to having clarity of mind and being mindful.