The Self has no choice but to pursue its inner goal. – Annemarie Roeper, 1999
My son was born opinionated.
That’s what I used to tell people during the first two years of his life. He voiced his likes and dislikes through different coos, vocalizations, and movement.
As an infant, he used to squiggle, kick and squeal at toys and objects that he wanted from his carrier, so much so that he would almost topple over. I love the squeaks, coos, squiggles, reaching out and eye tracking that babies do for things and people that they want. I imagine them saying “give me, give me, give me,” but with their whole heart, soul, and bodies.
That reaching and striving with their entire being for that wanted object or person reminds me that “children’s behavior is purposeful” and that behaviors are developed in the context of their environment. (Manaster and Corsini, 1982, p. 220)
All babies’ behaviors are purposeful and directed. The hard part is decoding in order to meet their needs.
I remember the first week of my son’s life, struggling as a new mom, not knowing what my son wanted when he cried. I fed him when he needed a diaper change or changed his diaper when he needed sleep. How frustrating for him! And he let me know. He would get angry and squirm like crazy and cry even harder. Poor guy!
But then, something happened.
Perhaps he learned to cry differently for different things, and perhaps I began deciphering his cries. But, I began to understand what he wanted: food, dirty diaper changed, to play, to sleep, just cranky, pick me up, put me down, give me that…. He was met with many challenges in the world, as all newborns, and was developing purposeful behavior in order to reach his goals.
He and I were learning through mutual respect and cooperation, how to connect, and how to find solutions for our obstacles: connect, teach, and problem solve.
From birth, he was striving for goals.
All of our children strive for goals, consciously or unconsciously, and through this striving, they find belonging.
The first step in understanding a child’s behavior is to understand that the behavior is goal oriented and motivated by immediate needs, and a desire to belong.
It is easy to see a baby’s goal oriented behavior for they are just beginning to learn how to connect, communicate, cooperate and belong. As our babies grow into toddlers and children, they learn exponentially and have so many more complex behaviors to choose from.
I find it helpful to remember that all children’s behaviors are goal oriented, created, and developed within the context of the environment in which they occur. And these are the ways in which a child tries to find belonging.
Remember: Connect, Teach, Problem Solve.
I invite you to join me at The Best You Expo on March 24th and 25th in Long Beach California, as I will be a guest speaker.
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Catherine Gruener, LCPC, NCC, DCC, PDTC. Catherine is a multi-certified and licensed clinical professional counselor, nationally and internationally known for her parent training programs. She is the owner of Gruener Consulting and the Chief Executive Officer of the Encouragement Parenting Division.