Does it really matter WHY kids misbehave?Nov 22, 2020
Last week I talked with several moms who were really worried about what was causing their children's behavior.
- "Why doesn't he like school?"
- "What could cause her to lie to me?"
- "I wish I knew why he hit his sister."
- "What is making her skip her homework?"
These moms felt confused and frustrated, and sometimes even defensive ("I've tried everything and nothing works! What am I supposed to do?!?"), but most of all they felt guilty! A mom is supposed to understand her kid, right? We should know why they do the crazy things they do, even better than they know themselves. When we can't understand our child, our protective care-taker brains start thinking things like, "Maybe this is my fault? Maybe there's something I missed or should have known that is causing this problem? If I don't know why it's happening, my response to it might make it worse!"
When we go down the 'why' rabbithole, we become paralyzed every time our child confuses us (so basically, all the time!). This is how we use investigation and curiosity about kids' motives to avoid parenting them!
Luckily, the story we tell ourselves that we have to understand 'why' before we can parent well, is a lie. The truth is that a loving, non-punitive approach to discipline is always appropriate even when the 'why' of a situation hasn't yet revealed itself. And, in fact, parenting this way hastens the discovery of what's going on behind the scenes because it removes any motivation for kids to keep things hidden.
The 'why' of someone else's mind is never truly known. But, YOUR 'why' is right there waiting for you when you turn all that curiosity and investigation onto yourself - what is behind YOUR emotions and reactions to their behavior? Why does it matter to you if your kid likes school, tells a lie, hits their sibling or isn't a scholar? What does it mean to you or about you when those things happen? And who do you want to be as a parent? When we parent this way, our child's 'why' can be unknown, because we are showing up knowing OUR 'why' and that's enough.