What is the Motivation Behind Your Child’s Behavior?

motivation behavior

If you can understand your child’s motivation and reason behind their behavior, you can take the right steps to change the situation. Your child’s negative behavior can be a message to you that

  • some important emotional need is not being met, and/or
  • a limiting belief is present

Both kids and adults have basic emotional needs. Mostly we have a need for emotional connection and positive attention – the need for belonging. We also have a need for autonomy in our own personal power, and to contribute in ways that are meaningful to us.

If your child doesn’t feel a sense of belonging, he will act out in ways he thinks might get him the emotional attention he is lacking. Perhaps it shows up as whining or clinging.

Or if you are continually doing things for your child that she can do for herself or you have too much control over her life, she is not getting a sense of her own personal power or significance. Her need to feel important, capable, and have some sort of control over her own life might show up as talking back, power struggles, tantrums, or defiance. “You aren’t the boss of me” is a statement that this need for autonomy and significance is not being met.

Underneath our feelings are beliefs about ourselves, about others and about the world. These beliefs can be either limiting or supportive. Beliefs are usually hidden in the subsconsicous mind, which drives over 90% of behavior.

The power struggles between parents and kids are usually the result of a conflict in needs. You have your own needs that can frequently conflict with your child’s needs.

Consider this scenario:

You’re struggling to get your child ready in the morning and he is having a meltdown about putting his shoes on. You have less than five minutes to leave before being late for school and work. Extremely stressful and frustrating. Why? Because you have a need that is not being met. Getting everyone to work and school on time is your need. The deeper underlying need might be security (you could lose your job) or acceptance (the teacher won’t like it if your kids are late again).

“We don’t have time for this!” you think (or yell).

Your child’s need at that time might be affection or connection. Turns out the night before he was upset about something, needing affection and to feel that everything was going to be OK. But because he didn’t know how to express what he was feeling, he said nothing. And now, this morning, that need for some connection with you is playing out in the hallway as a tantrum, since you are trying to rush him out the door. The limiting belief beneath the tantrum might be “I’m unworthy” or “You don’t care about me”.  Limiting beliefs are not true, they are simply beliefs that we take on and feel to be true.

What might be a good way to handle this?

You can approach your child with an open heart and offer empathy. You can put a loving arm around him and say, “I can see that you’re really sad right now and I feel sad with you. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t feel like doing and that can be frustrating. I think it would be good to have some special snuggle time tonight after we have dinner. Do you think that’s a good idea?” Help redirect his thinking toward a solution and getting his needs met. “Let’s get our shoes on and talk more about what we can do tonight while we drive to school. I bet you have some great ideas and I really want to hear them.”

Make sure to follow through with whatever you come up with. Kids need to know they can trust you and that what you say is true.

Let’s go deeper into exploring your child’s feelings. Read Can you be your child’s emotional coach?

In our parent coaching program, you will get the guidance you need.

As a certified parenting coach, I provide a purely judgement-free, completely confidential space for you to talk about what’s happening. I’ll support you in a new way of communicating and interacting and help you incorporate new tools – so your kids are more cooperative and you can feel more peace and ease.

If you want to talk about your frustrations, feeling overwhelmed, or a specific challenge you’re having…whatever is on your mind… take a half hour for yourself to talk with me. Trust me, it could change everything.

Learn more and schedule a free call.

Jane Sheppard CPC
Certified Parenting Coach
Functional Medicine Health Coach

One Comment

  1. Parents worry about their child not willing to do homework and not interested in school or learning. Thanks for such a wonderful blog. Really amazing guidelines for parents. It’s really helpful to know how to motivate your child. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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