Types of Misbehavior in Children

By Angela Hallack
Children's misbehavior can frustrate parents.

Just as no two children are exactly alike, no two children behave exactly alike. In order to identify different types of misbehavior in children, it is important to determine the underlying reason for the behaviors. Every behavior, positive or negative, brings about some result or consequence that reinforces the behavior and ensures that it reoccurs. According to Barbara Beccari, M.Ed., of NeedtoConnect.com, the four most common types of misbehavior in children are attention, power, insecurity, and revenge-seeking behaviors.

Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Children often whine when they need attention.

Attention seeking behaviors include behaviors that result in attention from others, including negative attention such as being punished or ridiculed. Examples of attention-seeking behaviors are whining, being silly, or interrupting others. If a behavior results in feelings of annoyance in others, it is likely an attention-seeking behavior, according to kidsgrowth.com. Giving a child plenty of attention for positive behavior is the best antidote to attention-seeking misbehavior.

Power-Seeking Behaviors

A tantrum is often a child's attempt to gain control.

Power-seeking behaviors are a child's way of seeking some control over his circumstances. Examples include debating or arguing, refusal to follow instructions, or tantrums. Attempts at strict rule enforcement will likely result in more defiant behaviors. An effective strategy for dealing with power-seeking behaviors is to offer choices rather than demands.

Confidence-Seeking Behaviors

Children who lack confidence often procrastinate.

A child who lacks confidence in his abilities may be described as lazy, unmotivated, sloppy, or forgetful, but these children are saying, "I can't do it." This type of behavior often results in feelings of frustration for others. Parents often reinforce these behaviors by doing the tasks for the child, rather than encouraging independence. Providing step-by-step instruction for tasks, along with plenty of positive feedback when each step is accomplished, is a helpful method to correct this type of behavior.

Revenge-Seeking Behaviors

Bullies need clear, consistent rules and consequences.

Revenge-seeking behaviors include bullying, vandalism or aggression against younger or weaker children. Children exhibiting these behaviors are communicating that they feel unaccepted and a need to get even. They have usually failed to get their needs met through any of the previous types of misbehavior. They are seeking emotional responses from others, so responding in a controlled and consistent manner is most effective. Indicate the rule they have violated, the consequences of breaking that rule, and then follow through with administering the consequences is essential. Finally, providing positive feedback for positive behavior will help ensure that those behaviors increase.

About the Author

Angela Hallack has been a freelance writer since 2009, contributing to various websites. Hallack has a Master of Science in psychology from Northeast Louisiana University with additional training in infant and child mental health.