boy, rascal, child, misbehaviour, Photo by qimono

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Click below to listen to this article:

The Four goals of misbehaviour

The four rules of misbehaviour are a framework proposed by Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, a psychiatrist who was influenced by the social psychologist Alfred Adler. According to Dreikurs, all human behaviour is motivated by the need to belong and be accepted by others, and all misbehaviour is the result of a child’s mistaken assumption about how to achieve this goal.

According to the Adlerian perspective, children’s misbehaviour is not random, but rather has a psychological goal (Dreikurs, 1948). Dreikurs identified four main goals of misbehaviour: attention, power, revenge, and inadequacy. These goals are based on the child’s mistaken belief that they can only belong or be significant by behaving in certain ways. Here is a brief explanation of each goal:

Attention: The child believes that they belong only when they get noticed or acknowledged by others. They seek constant attention and service from adults, and may act in annoying or disruptive ways to get it. The adult’s typical reaction is irritation or annoyance, and they may try to remind or coax the child to stop. The child’s coded message is “Notice me, involve me usefully” (Gfroerer, 2020).

Power: The child believes that they belong only when they are in control or bossy, or when they prove that no one can boss them. They seek to challenge or defy the adult’s authority, and may act in rebellious or aggressive ways to do so. The adult’s typical reaction is anger or provocation, and they may try to fight or give in to the child. The child’s coded message is “Let me help, give me choices” (Gfroerer, 2020).

Sign up for our Newsletter!
We will send you regular updates regarding new articles, as well as hints and tips regarding self-transcendence. We aim to limit this to once per month, though some months we will have additional special editions covering significant articles worthy of being the sole focus of a newsletter. There will be no sales spam or selling your address to third parties.

Revenge: The child believes that they belong only by hurting others as they feel hurt, and that they cannot be loved. They seek to inflict pain or damage on others, and may act in spiteful or vengeful ways to do so. The adult’s typical reaction is hurt or shock, and they may try to retaliate or get even with the child. The child’s coded message is “Help me feel I matter” (Gfroerer, 2020).

Inadequacy: The child believes that they belong only by convincing others not to expect anything from them, and that they are hopeless or helpless. They seek to avoid any challenge or responsibility, and may act in passive or withdrawn ways to do so. The adult’s typical reaction is despair or pity, and they may try to rescue or give up on the child. The child’s coded message is “Don’t give up on me” (Gfroerer, 2020).

Understanding the goals of misbehavior can help adults respond in more effective and empathic ways that address the underlying needs of the child and foster their sense of belonging and significance.

Dreikurs suggested that these four goals of misbehaviour can be applied to adults as well as children. He argued that adults also have the same need to belong and be accepted by others, and that they may also adopt mistaken ways of achieving this goal based on their early childhood experiences (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990). For example, an adult who seeks undue attention may constantly interrupt conversations or demand special privileges; an adult who seeks misguided power may resist following rules or instructions or try to dominate others; an adult who seeks revenge may hold grudges or sabotage others’ success; and an adult who assumes inadequacy may avoid taking risks or responsibility or blame others for their failures.

Dreikurs did not advocate for using punishment, rewards, or praise to change misbehaviour, but rather for using natural consequences and encouragement to help children and adults develop a sense of belonging and significance in positive ways. He also emphasized the importance of understanding the purpose and goal of misbehaviour before responding to it, and of addressing the underlying needs and feelings of the person rather than reacting to the surface behaviour (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990).

References

Dreikurs, R. (1948). The challenge of parenthood. Duell, Sloan & Pearce.

New article alerts!
We will notify you of new articles as soon as they are published. There will be no sales spam or selling your address to third parties.

Dreikurs, R., & Soltz, V. (1990). Children: The challenge. Plume.

Gfroerer, K. (2020). What are the four goals of misbehavior? Continued Early Childhood Education. https://www.continued.com/early-childhood-education/ask-the-experts/what-four-goals-misbehavior-23705

Neufeld Institute. (n.d.). Making sense of the kids’ course description. Retrieved from https://neufeldinstitute.org/course/making-sense-of-kids/

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content