One way or another

“The misbehaving child is still trying in a mistaken way to feel important in her own world. A young child who has never been allowed to dress herself because her mother is always in a hurry or has to make sure all of her clothes match; or who has not been allowed to help in the house because she can not do it as well, will lack the feeling that she is a useful, contributing member of the family, and will feel important only when arousing her parent’s anger and annoyance with her misbehavior. The child is usually unaware of her goals. Her behavior, though illogical to others, is consistent with her own interpretation of her place in the family group.”

— The ABC’s of Guiding the Child, Rudolf Dreikurs, MD and Margaret Goldman

So this week is about more observation of our girls and ourselves: Namely, how do I feel when they misbehave, and what does that tell me about their goals? Vicki provided an extremely useful guide:

1)    Demanding attention leads to my feeling frustrated, annoyed and/or drained
2)    Power struggles lead to my feeling angry (my authority threatened)
3)    Acts of revenge lead to my feeling hurt and disappointed
4)    Avoidance/passivity leads to my feeling helpless and hopeless

Paying attention to my own feelings gives me clues as to what the girls are after: attention, power, revenge, or avoidance. Then we can figure out how to give them what they need in new and positive ways during the coming weeks and years. (It turns out that what they need is to know they belong and that they are important — that they count in the family and that we believe in them. More on that later.)

Today I felt it, but I’m not sure if it was pure frustration or anger or some combination of the two. Before karate class we stopped by my sister’s house to get Ellen, and Charlotte went in to get a drink. “Hey, mom, we can get my backpack!” “Yes!” I said, “Good idea!” She got a drink and was sitting and sipping and appearing to move as slowly as possible. “Ok, Charlotte we’re running out of time, so while you have your drink, go ahead and change into your uniform.” “Why should I do that?” My blood pressure was rising. “Charlotte, if you don’t make an effort to be on time then you will not get your allowance this week…what do you choose?” “Ok …” “Ok, here is your backpack, I’ll be in the car,” and I walked out. And I sat…and I waited…and the time to get to karate ticked away. “Mom!!!” she yelled out the window, “I need help!” “What is the problem?” My voice oozed with annoyance. “I can’t tie it!” I went inside. “I didn’t know you were in the car!” she said. “Charlotte, I said ‘I’ll be in the car.’… Just come like that, the teacher will help you tie it.” “Ok….oh, goodbye Diesel.” She stopped to pet the cat. I clenched my fists. “Oh, where are my shoes…oh, here…” And then she marched to the door right past her backpack. “Charlotte … get your backpack.” She did and then we got in the car. “I’m feeling really frustrated,” I said, still trying to calm myself down, “I’m just so tired to trying to get you going to karate class. Is it because you don’t like it? You don’t really want to go? It that what’s going on?” Her face fell and she started to cry, “No…I’m just not a hurrier…” I took a deep breath. “I see … I understand that,” I said. And we arrived at karate 10 minutes late. Dawdling certainly is one way to get noticed. Check mark for attention with a dash of power.

p.s. On school nights now we’re available for bedtime books and visits from 8:45 – 9:15pm. Tonight is the first night they’ve missed the window. It’s 9:15, they’re all still downstairs, and we have just shut our bedroom door and locked it. The plan is that they get no contact with us — none — until morning. We’ll see what happens…

At 9:20 they ran upstairs as usual and brushed their teeth. The bathroom was crowded. “Mom?!” said Ellen, “Can I use your bathroom? … Mom?!” Silence. “Mom! Everyone’s in here brushing their teeth and I can’t get any privacy!” More silence. Sounds of brushing teeth. “Charlotte! Come on! What takes you so long!” … “Ready!” they called. Jerry whispered, “Should we tell them? Otherwise they’re going to just wait and wait for us.” “I don’t know,” I whispered back, “They can tell time … I think we should just let them figure it out.”

“Mom!! … We’re ready!” said Charlotte. “What’s taking you so long?! … Mommy? … Daddy? …” I cringed as we stayed silent. Then Ellen’s footsteps down the hall. “Charlotte, we don’t get a good night from them, it’s already … 9:30!” “Oh…” said Charlotte. A minute later Charlotte knocked on our door. “Charlotte, what are you doing?” said Ellen. “We missed them, don’t you know that?” “Yeah.” “Then what are you doing?” “I just want them to come out for a small goodnight.” We didn’t. Charlotte eventually went into her room. We heard her whimpering for a minute, and then happily talking to herself. She went out of her room two or three times and then got in bed and fell asleep.

The deal is, if they’re late then our bedtime availability moves back to the 8:30-9pm window. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 4: Four Mistaken Goals of Behavior

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