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Motivations for Misbehavior


Without a doubt, the most problematic four-letter word for human beings is more. And when it comes to understanding discipline, you simply cannot discount the important role that "more" plays between you and your child.

If you tell a 6-year-old he can't have a cookie before dinner, and yet he sneaks one when you are out of the room, there's no question he has misbehaved. The question then becomes, why? Did he know he wasn't supposed to take a cookie? Of course. Was he capable of following the no-cookie rule? Again, the answer is yes. Did he know that getting caught would certainly bring about consequences? Hopefully, this answer is also yes. Therefore, you must conclude that he simply chose to disobey and challenge your authority by partaking of the forbidden cookie. Somewhere in his 6-year-old brain, he decided the joy (the "more" in this case) that a cookie creates was worth the risk of incurring your anger and any subsequent punishment.

All of us make poor choices on an hourly basis. If you stopped long enough to analyze the reason for these poor choices, you would find the desire for more was likely at the root of the choice. Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Why? Because they wanted more wisdom. It would allow them to be more like God. It remains the same today. We still want more. We mistakenly believe that attaining more of whatever it is will make us more significant, important, loved, and therefore happier.

This desire for more often serves as the motivation for misbehavior. But the key to effective discipline is to figure out what it is your child wants more of.

The DQ study led me to put kids into one of four personality types—Bears, Monkeys, Porcupines, and Lambs (see sidebar below). Once a parent knows how to identify each child's type, that parent is most of the way toward knowing why that child misbehaves and how to bring about better behavior.

WHETHER YOU HAVE a Bear, Monkey, Porcupine, or Lamb in your habitat, your goal cannot change—to be the best parent you can be, trusting that God knew what he was doing when he gave you your children.

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