4 Goals of Misbehavior- Understanding Your Child’s Actions

The Goals of Misbehavior shared by Kathryn Kvols in her book Redirecting Children’s Behavior, have been one of those “Ah-ha Moments” for me this summer. I was first introduced to them at the Mom’s group I attended this summer at our church, and the information was just so helpful, I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you!

My most helpful part, was that the author describes how the misbehavior makes the parents feel. I find it perfectly describes how I feel in these situations with my boys and with students in my classroom, when they are misbehaving!  This information has really encouraged me as a mom to step back and evaluate what my sons’ goals are when one of them is misbehaving. Perhaps I need to be doing something differently! 

4 Goals of Misbehavior

Goal 1: Attention

How the Child Feels: “I only count when I’m being heard.”

How the Parent Feels: Annoyed, Don’t want to give them attention

Suggestions for Redirection: Ignore the negative and praise the positive, Offer 2 choices for the child to choose from

Parent’s Goal: To stop reinforcing the misbehavior

Goal 2: Power

How the Child Feels: “I only count when I’m in control!”

How the Parent Feels: Angry, Out-of Control, Threatened

Suggestions for Redirection: Teach them to be a ‘supervisor’ of something, Give them choices instead of orders

Parent’s Goal: Disengage yourself from the power struggle

Goal 3: Revenge

How the Child Feels: “I can’t be liked, I don’t have power, but I’ll count if I hurt others like I feel hurt.”

How the Parent Feels: Hurt, Anger, Withdraws from Child

Suggestions for Redirections: Encourage your child more, Remain friendly even when your child’s words hurt you, Use logical consequences, Apologize, Teach them to better express their feelings

Parent’s Goal: Improve your relationship with your child; be loving, firm, but kind

Goal 4: Avoidance/Display of Inadequacy

How the Child Feels: “I can’t do anything right so I’m not even going to try!”

How the Parent Feels: Hopeless, Inadequate, Thoughts of Failure

Suggestions for Redirection: Speaking gently with your child (yelling is typically the reason for this in the first place); Arrange opportunities for small successes, Don’t do things for them right away, Help them feel valuable, Don’t coax them or feel sorry for them, Give words to their feelings

Parent’s Goal: To encourage any effort no matter how small it seems. Concentrate on changing your own behavior if  you wish for your child to change theirs

Read more about The 4 Goals of Misbehavior in the book Redirecting Children’s Behavior by Kathryn Kvols.


photo credit: aboutourkids.org


  1. Some good ideas for those actions. Explains exactly how I feel when they happen. I know patience is key.

  2. What wonderful ideas! I love how you wrote this post.

  3. Some really good tips. Thank you for sharing. Visiting from Someday Crafts. Would love it if you would share this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. http://thededicatedhouse.blogspot.com/2012/08/make-it-pretty-monday-week-11.html Hope to see you at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  4. Great tips; thanks Makenzie! Glad you shared at Shine on Fridays!

  5. This is so great. You are versatile with the information you provide. Plus your expierience as a teacher and a mom makes you even more credible. Thanks for sharing with us. I’m a grandmother. This is the second time around for me.

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