Blinded by Behavior

November 27, 2012 at 8:09 am (Attachment Parenting, Positive Discipline) (, , , , )

Being a parent has taught me to see children through a new set of eyes. Rather, through being a connected-parent-who-is-focused-on-child-development-and-nonviolent-communication, I have come to see children’s behavior through a new set of eyes. Behavior can be a bit misleading, especially when it tugs on my emotional triggers, and I tend to react with strong emotion. When I first started seeing “triggering” behavior in my youngest child’s toddlerhood, I looked at it with a blind eye.

Where there was hitting, I saw violence.

Where there was whining and pestering, I saw an annoyance.

Where there was “not listening,” or not following directions, I saw disobedience.

But I wasn’t seeing the behavior. Not really. I would feel outraged that a child (my child!) could be so selfish, mean, or insensitive, and all I wanted to do was put a stop to this unacceptable behavior. But when that was all that I allowed myself to perceive of the situation, I wasn’t able to see what was really going on. Because the behavior was coming from somewhere. My child was not being a problem, she was having a problem. And just treating the behavior without addressing the underlying problem, I was only trying to solve my own problem, all the while masking hers.

During those early years, as I searched for “what to do” about my young child’s behavior, I came to realize two things:

1. The answers–our answers–weren’t in books. No one else had the answer for what do to in response to my child’s behavior. I came to understand that I already had the answers. They were in my heart and in our strength of connection, and I needed to trust what those answers were for us.

2. These answers weren’t in response to the problems I thought they were. As my daughter grew, and as my son grew, I began to see their behavior–the depths of it–and to really understand where the right response should begin.

The problem is not a child’s aggression, it’s the child’s overwhelming and misplaced emotions. The solution becomes about empathy and acceptance and creating a sense of belonging–misplaced emotions and all.

The problem is not the annoyance, it’s the child’s feeling of distance and insignificance. The solution is not further pushing away of the child, but increased involvement and emotional connection.

The problem is not the disobedience, it’s the lack of opportunity for autonomy and initiative. The solution, then, is not about issuing harsher threats to gain compliance, but about creating more opportunities for personal power for the child and communicating trust in using those opportunities.

So, when we ask ourselves, What is an appropriate response to hitting? What should I do when my child whines about everything? How do I get my child to listen to my directions?, know that the answers aren’t found in books, but are already within us. The key to finding them is to see the behavior in its entirety, leaving nothing masked. Don’t look on the surface but go deeper. Look past the trigger point and into the inner workings, for there is the source of the problem, and there is where the solution will begin. Don’t just look at behavior, see it, and you’ll find what to do.


  1. Flora McCormick (@counselorflora) said,

    I really really like your message here! I do think there are some things that are written that tie into this, though. The things you shared match really closely with what Positive Discipline calls the 4 Mistaken Goals of Behavior. Check it out: It is titled “mistaken goal chart” at the bottom.

    • Kelly said,

      Absolutely! I’m a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer Candidate, and I love the Mistaken Goals chart! The insight to kids’ behavior is what we need most, but it is certainly not easy to find. I recommend the Mistaken Goals chart to parents often because it is a great way of helping them find that starting point in understanding what to do next. Thanks for sharing the link!

  2. Emily Plank, Abundant Life Children said,

    Oh, I love this post. You do such a wonderful job of offering a succinct evaluation of the likely reasons behind these common childhood behaviors. THANK YOU!!

  3. jayne said,

    I have been a nanny on and off for many years and one thing that “gets me” is whining…. One of the ways I dealt with it that proved very effective – was to say that i “couldn’t hear/understand them in that voice”, but if they could try to speak normally I could help them to get what they needed from me or someone else. They always went off happily once sorted. I interpret it as kinda the same thing that you say here… they are having a problem and need help and somehow they are programmed to whine to get it – in my experience it didn’t have to be the case, after a while they caught on that they just needed to ask for help or my undivided attention.

  4. rosemarysruminations said,

    Hehe I was just thinking about this exact thing but don’t have time to write right now – perfect timing!

  5. rosemarysruminations said,

    Reblogged this on rosemarysruminations.

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