Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
13If you want to effectively deal with misbehaviors, you need to understand why they are happening. Most often misbehaviors are just an ineffective attempt to get a need met. Here is a little guide that will help you interpret why particular behaviors happen and how to respond to them.
1. Attention Seeking Behaviors: EVERYBODY has a need for attention and approval, but some people are better at getting their need met than others. You will know you are dealing with an attention seeking behavior because you will feel ANNOYED.
These are usually low level misbehaviors that just get under our skin, like whining, pestering, following you around the house, bouncing a ball against the wall over and over, etc… Clearly the person wants your attention. If we let our emotions get the better of us then you will likely build up frustration until you verbally lash out at the person. Yes, this is giving them attention but it’s attention that will reinforce the wrong thing.
When you notice that someone is doing an attention seeking behavior, the best thing to do is redirect their energy by giving them some attention for something positive. Just bypass the annoying behavior and say something like, “Oh my God, I almost forgot to tell you that I saw your math test grade and that I was so proud of you. YOU DID AWESOME!” Now you have given them some attention but it’s for something positive. Most likely they will forget all about what they were doing to annoy you and get all perked up with pride. Now you have met their need and reinforced a positive behavior.
2. Display of Inadequacy: This one might fly right under the radar. You may not even recognize it as a misbehavior. This is when someone plays incompetent to get out of doing a task. For example, if your kid says to you, “will you make me a sandwich, I don’t know how to do it like you do.” Smooth move, right!!! My son, does this quite frequently. He will want me to do something for him that he can most definitely do for himself. Sometimes it’s hard to resist, because 1. It’s easier to do it myself than to wait for him to do it and 2. It’s sorta cute in some weird messed up way. (I guess mamma’s are just suckers for a baby face!)
If you are dealing with this misbehavior, it’s best to have the person do as much as they are capable of. For example, you might say, “sure, I’ll help you make a sandwich. You get out what you want on it, and I’ll help you put it together and cut the crust off.” It’s important to allow people (no matter how big or small) to do as much for themselves as they can, because that’s what builds self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from a sense of competence, it doesn’t come from being beautiful, intelligent, having nice things, etc… The only way to gain self-confidence is to learn that you can take care of yourself!
Another fun example: As I am writing this (in the kitchen with staff at lunch), Campbell says to Cole, “The heart on the back of my door has some sort of short in it, Cole can you look at it? It needs a man’s attention!” That Campbell is slick!
3. Power Struggle Behaviors: Obviously this is about control. You will know you’re dealing with a power struggle because it’s gonna make you angry! You are going to instinctually want to “show who’s the boss!” The more you try to control the situation, the more it triggers the other person’s need for control and one way or the other they will get some control.
I suggest that you give the person several options when you find yourself in a power struggle. This way you are in control of the options, but the other person has some control as well. Resist the instinct to get into the power struggle. You will lose because the person will figure out how to make you look stupid. People have a natural need to be in control, so it’s important to give them positive ways to do that.
4. Revenge Behaviors: This is the worst! You will know this when you see it, because it will make you FURIOUS! This happens when somebody has a hurt feeling toward you, and they act out in an effort to get revenge. They will do something that they know will hurt you. THIS IS PERSONAL. They might do something like smash a cherished item, or say that one thing that they know will break your heart.
This is the hardest one to deal with, because it is going to make you so angry that it’s gonna be hard to avoid getting reactive. You will likely want to retaliate immediately. DON’T DO THIS.
First, step back from the situation. Don’t do anything in the moment. You are going to need to catch your breath. After that, you need to get to the bottom of why they are upset with you and address the issue, otherwise you’re gonna get more and more of these behaviors.
You can also see revenge behaviors come out in mean little passive aggressive comments directed toward you. You usually see this from conflict avoidant people. If they have a hurt feeling, they won’t directly deal with it, so the ugliness just seeps out of the cracks slowly.
I had a client once who use to call this a “walk by stabbing,” because that’s what it feels like. Everything is just going along swimmingly, then out of nowhere the person says something negative and hurtful. It can happen fast, and in a way that you’ll be like “did that just happen?” These comments can be said under the guise of humor or be very nonchalant.
Women are the best at this!!!! We know how to say “oh, I love your shirt” but really be saying “You look like a slut!” It’s all in the context of the situation. Watch out for these “walk by knifings.” They may not be huge displays of anger, but they are usually persistent, and they’ll keep coming at you, until you eventually lose your cool. Then you will say or do something else that will hurt the other person’s feelings and the whole thing will just keep cycling.
As hard as it is not to be reactive in these situations, you gotta use your head. Think about the desired outcome and be strategic on how to get it. Emotional reactivity only makes things worse.