It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Behavior as a Way to “Fix” Problems

BEHAVIOR AS A WAY TO FIX PROBLEMS: The behaviors of young people, what they DO, can be one of the best indicators of what’s going on inside of them. More often than we realize, their behaviors are an attempt to “fix” issues and situations in their lives. Reading this behavior is not especially difficult, but it does take a little practice.

An Interesting Dynamic

A boy is fearful his parents will divorce. How does he stop them? I’ve seen youngsters find their way into so much trouble at school their parents had to come together to deal with it.

Now that’s an interesting dynamic, isn’t it? As long as the boy is in trouble, Mom and Dad are actually communicating and working together on something involving their son. And, as long as they are working together, they are together. With that kind of payoff, how do you propose to stop the lad’s behavior?

Getting Dad Off the Road

By way of another example, I once had the opportunity to work with a high-school girl from a single-parent family. (Her mother had died of pancreatic cancer, one enormous and unaddressed source of the girl’s pain and anger.) Dad’s work kept him on the road all the time. The girl shared with me she felt she had lost both of her parents.

She found an effective way to get her father off the road: She began failing in school. It worked! Dad had countless meetings with her teachers and he begged her to bring up her grades. Clearly capable of passing, the girl failed the ninth grade. In fact, since Dad was a slow learner, she failed it THREE times.

In both of these examples the youngsters considered the consequences of their behavior preferable to letting the problem continue. As obvious as these situations seemed, they were NOT obvious at all to the folks in the middle of them. Effective intervention, therefore, should address the problem the behavior is trying to “fix” (if possible), then addess both it and the behavior.

Dr. James Sutton, is a psychologist, author and former Special Education teacher. He is the founder of The Changing Behavior Digest and The Changing Behavior Network, and the author of The Changing Behavior Book.[website]

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October 19, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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