Accessing Intention of Behavior
Behaviors have intention. There is a reason behind every behavior, although some may be very deep, in the subconscious. Some may be known, or intentional, and these, when seen in children, seem to be the most difficult for parents to accept. Sorting out the reason can help a person know how to deal with the behaviors, beyond discipline. Especially if the behaviors are “toileting issues”.
As a therapist, one of my first instructions to parents is to stop asking, “Why?”. Most kids don’t know, and if they do know, they may often lie, as the reason will get them “in trouble”. So if you stop asking them, how do you know why the behavior is happening? Behaviors happen for many types of reasons, and some may not even make sense. An adult’s version of logic is not the same as a child’s, so using your logic to understand childrens’ behaviors is a guess, at best.
Many behaviors have to do with control. You as a parent tell them what to do and then you expect total compliance. This is the real world, so expecting that sets everyone up to fail. If children feel as if they has no control over their life or choices, they will do whatever it takes to establish some control. This can happen with toileting issues. Enuresis and encopresis (peeing and pooping) are things that a parent cannot control. You can try, and you can consequence, but if a child wants to pee or poop, you can’t really stop him!
Often, a child will pee or poop out of anger. All too many times, we shut kids off from their expression of anger. Instead, we need to give them more appropriate ways of expressing their anger. If children feel they have no outlet, they will make one! And it is often through defecating anywhere and anytime THEY want. Again, this puts them in control of their body, not you. Instead of trying to eliminate the anger, parents need to guide the expression to ways more appropriate and to outlets more geared toward the children’s ages.
There are also some kids who “regress” when they hurt and/or are angry. At that point, they may try to recreate that smell or feel, which they may associate with sitting in wet diapers, especially if there were some neglect or the smell of urine, which might actually be of comfort to them. And as such, age may have relatively little to do with the “accidents” as a child may seem very “infant-like” during the regression, making it harder to consequence.
When issues such as peeing or pooping happen, it is best to try to figure out what is behind the behavior. Disciplining may be effective, but if it feels punitive to the child, you may see more escalation, again for control reasons. And if it is punitive, the child may also go to shame, which will create some life-long baggage to carry. A consequential approach, without adding guilt to the scene, can be effective. Making the child responsible for the clean-up, without the lecture, may be enough of a consequence. When we as adults make a mess, we have to clean it up. If you make that the rule in the house, the behaviors may taper off, as the child becomes more responsible.
The message behind the behavior also needs to be addressed. Does the child need extra attention? Does the “baby” need more “mom time” to feel more special? If you can tie the consequences to the behavior and then add some nurturing time on a daily basis, along with healthy outlets for anger, many times you can eliminate the need for the enuresis and encopresis.Tags: Assessing the Intention of Behaviors, children acting out
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
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