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4 Reasons Why Kids Misbehave

Parents who are looking for the reasons why their kids misbehave need to look no further than these 4 motivators of misbehavior.

Anxiety workbook for kids

Understanding the fact that all kids misbehave is not hard to do. Trying to figure out why is a whole different story. Sometimes you may feel that you need a secret decoder ring to figure it all out. Some parents give up all together, feeling that their efforts in this area are futile. Please don’t give up! Discovering the underlying motivation of your child’s misbehavior is one of the most helpful parenting tools in your toolbox.

According to social psychologist, Rudolf Dreikurs there are 4 main reasons why kids misbehave:


Power and control


Display of inadequacy

Each of the terms above links to an article that explores each of these reasons why kids misbehave in more detail. We will examine what each looks like and feels like to you in “real life.” We will then use that information to give suggestions on what you can do about it.

In the 1970’s, Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay used these four motivators of misbehavior as the basis for their parent training manual entitled, The Parent’s Handbook (STEP: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting). It contains helpful information for parents on parenting styles, child development, and discipline. It uses plain language with lots of illustrative examples that help equip parents to be the best they can be.

Even though the original edition of the book is out of print, it is definitely worth reading because, despite it’s age, the material it contains is still relevant and effective for today’s families.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and parents. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married with a young adult son and a teenage daughter.

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