Child 1Why Do Kids Do What They Do?

I recently attended a 5-day training on School Climate at ACES in Hamden, Connecticut. What a great week!

I learned something which really hit home as a mother, a teacher, a grandmother and a Christian. It’s called the Cycle of Conflict, and it explains why many kids get stuck in a pattern of inappropriate behaviors.

The Cycle of Conflict:

  1. The Child experiences some kind of stress (external or internal), which causes fears.
  2. The fears of the Child cause the Child to develop irrational thoughts.
  3. The irrational thoughts of the Child cause the child to express inappropriate behaviors.
  4. The inappropriate behaviors of the Child incite the Adult.
  5. The Adult then mirrors the inappropriate behavior of the Child.
  6. The behaviors of the Child escalate.
  7. The Adult issues a consequence for the behaviors (which the  Adult fueled).
  8. The irrational thoughts and fears of the Child are confirmed — a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  9. See Step 3, and continue.

An Example:

  1. A new baby is born a a child’s house — the Stressor.   The stress of having life disrupted by a new addition to the family creates the worry that the child will not get attention by the parents — the Fear.
  2. The fear of losing the parents’ attention causes the child to feel that the new baby is replacing the child in the parents’ hearts  — the Irrational Thought.
  3. The irrational thought that he has lost his parents’ affection causes the child to disrupt class with outbursts, to get the teacher’s attention (resulting in a call home)– the Inappropriate Behaviors.
  4. The disruptive behaviors of the child, then getting in trouble in school, irritate his parents – the Adult Becomes Incited.
  5. The parents get mad at the child and yell at him for getting in trouble at school – the Mirror.
  6. The child yells back, “You don’t love me anymore! All you care about is that stupid baby!” – the Escalation.
  7. The parents send the child to his room — the Consequence.
  8. Being sent from the parents’ presence reinforces the irrational fear of losing his parents’ affection  — the Self-fulfilling Prophecy.

It’s All About the Adults:

The moral of the story is this: no matter how outrageous the child’s behavior, the bottom line is that it’s the adult’s response to the behavior that determines the future likelihood of the behavior continuing or decreasing.