October 4, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Acting, Bad, good, Intentions, kids


Categories: adhd

Seeing Good Intentions Even When Youngsters Are Appearing “Unhealthy”

“A good intention with a bad approach often leads to a bad result.”
– Thomas Edison

Someone once told me that “people do not act with the intention of being ‘bad'”. Basically, there is a positive intention behind every action. This is especially true when children misbehave.

I have a couple of kids and sometimes they misbehave. That is, they act frustrating, seem indifferent, and make me question their intentions. When I remember that they do not act with the intention of “being bad,” I can be more empathetic and caring, and the problems seem to resolve with much less drama.

Before I understood this perspective, every time I was ignored or someone did something hurtful, or one of my children broke a rule, I was inclined to assume that they did it to be “bad.” My anger, frustration, and disappointment were then justified, as was any discipline for their behavior. There was an action, a judgment about my child’s intentions or character, and a consequence.

If a child didn’t do their homework, it was because they were lazy or irresponsible. The consequence was to keep your feet on the ground and do your homework. Nothing positive came out of this reaction. I had described the child as “bad” and neither of us had learned anything to improve the situation in the future.

My intentions have always been (and still are) to have a positive impact on the children, to be a good role model for them, and to make them feel good about themselves.

Funny jumping to conclusions about their intentions failed to achieve this.

People have positive intentions

I am impressed by the idea that people’s actions are primarily geared towards positive results, not bad intentions. But achieving positive intent can be difficult. It means we have to stay open-minded and ignore our automatic assumptions about the importance of someone’s behavior. We need to question our determination WHY they haven’t done their homework or housework, or – God forbid – listen when we talk.

If, as the parent of a child with ADHD, your child is behaving “badly” or in ways that are reckless, self-defeating, or mean, you may be asking (whether in your head or out loud), “What was? You are thinking?”

Actually a great question. Have you ever asked her?

When I need to ask children about their “bad behavior” I usually start by saying, “I assume that you had no intention of getting into trouble or hurting anyone when you did.” they know I won’t chastise them, they are usually open to talking about what really motivates them.

What do children think when they behave “badly”?

Children want to feel good. They want to fit in and be accepted. You want to feel capable. They want to be noticed, heard and cared for. And our children – especially those with ADHD – want to feel focused, interested, motivated, and successful.

Feeling bad and wanting to feel better, being heard, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and, of course, feeling bored are some of the most common motivations for their “bad” actions.

When I keep the perspective that there is a positive intention behind every action, I understand this:

  • When children are bored, they will get in trouble just to feel involved
  • When children feel ignored, they turn up loud to get our attention
  • Sometimes when children feel bad, they do things to temporarily relieve the discomfort
  • When children are interested in something, it feels “good” and they often have difficulty shifting their focus to something less exciting
  • Just because they said they would do something and then forget about it doesn’t mean it was intentional or disrespectful
  • When children have difficulty with a task or topic, they will find excuses to avoid the activity because it makes them feel “stupid” or “bad”.
  • Sometimes when children try to adapt, they behave the way they need to to feel like their peers notice them.

In dealing with “bad behavior” as a carer and parent, I have also learned:

  • Ignore my automatic assumptions about other people’s intentions
  • Approach problems with an open mind
  • Ask questions like:
    • “What happened that led to your decision?”
    • “What did you hope the result would be?”
    • “If you know what you know now, what would you do differently to get what you wanted?”

Let the conversation replace the consequences

While consequences are sometimes necessary, learning and shaping behavior through conversation is a more powerful approach to addressing problem behavior.

As you help your children express their intentions and process their mistakes, they not only learn to take responsibility for their behavior, but also learn to consider the feelings and needs of others. And it also helps them develop self-control.

If you expect your child to always be polite, cheerful, or cooperative, you will be disappointed. Children will make mistakes, but most mistakes are not intentional.

It is important to remember that no one is perfect. Not your children. And you do not.

So treat yourself well too. You probably want to be the best parent ever. But you are human. Despite your best intentions, you will make mistakes. Don’t be too frustrated or upset. Everyone learns through experience.

“… it is true that some, even if the worst things in the works are done by people who think, really think that they are doing it for the best, especially when it comes to good.”

Terry Pratchett


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