Today I’m the Host of Day 13 of the Virtual Tour for our Ebook

Parenting Responsively for Connection

Day 13 –Understanding Your Child’s Behavior

 Today’s excerpt is from my chapter “Nurturing Connection Through Setting Your Intentions” and the excerpt is about “Understanding Your Child’s Behavior”. 
Enjoy! and please pass along via facebook share if you find it useful.

Today I have the great pleasure of being the host on Day 13 of the Virtual Book Tour for the E-Book Parenting Responsively for Connection.  Written by ACPI Parenting Coaches for parents to deal with the most difficult task of maintaining connection with the growing child whose behavior changes and shifts.

Yesterday, the book tour stopped by Dr. Caron Good’s blog at Visit now if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet all the authors.   And be sure to follow the Virtual Book Tour tomorrow when the next stop is the blog with blogger Corey Green, M.Ed. 
As usual, please share your comments and thoughts below. I love reading your feedback.  We appreciate the retweets and sharing on FB to spread the word.

Understanding Your Child’s Behavior
©2011 by Sherri Boles-Rogers 

                I often hear parents say things like “He always throws a temper tantrum just to get my attention,” or “She’s just trying to manipulate me.”  I know that it often feels that way, but I believe that when our children behave in less than desirable ways, there’s something deeper going on.  The more we understand what  the driving force behind the behavior is, the better we will be able to respond to it effectively. 

                What if I told you that all behavior is an attempt to get needs met—whether consciously or unconsciously.  I really don’t believe children get up in the morning and ask themselves, “How can I best antagonize Mom and Dad today?” Although some days it may seem like they do!  I believe our children (as well as us adults) behave, speak and act in ways that express our needs in an effort to  get those needs met.  It’s as simple as that.

                So often, we as parents place our focus on the outside–the behavior, rather than on the inside—what’s happening within our child to “cause” the behavior.  When we just deal with the behavior in front of us, we are like a doctor who prescribes cough syrup for a cough instead of treating  the infection in the lungs which is causing the cough.   Until the root cause is understood and addressed, the symptoms (and behaviors) will likely keep recurring.  So how do you find the root of the behavior? By thinking in terms of universal needs.

                Universal needs are those qualities of life that when met, enrich our life.  They are universal in that all humans on the planet share these needs.  Some examples of universal needs are  air, food, water, shelter, safety, security, rest, autonomy, connection, love, touch, acceptance, belonging, community, consideration, trust, honesty, support, reassurance, peace of mind, authenticity, meaning, self-worth, order, peace, harmony, ease, creativity, fun, play, to matter and the need  to contribute to others.  These are but a few of the universal needs we share as humans. Is there anything on this list that you would be willing to do without for the rest of your life?

                Obviously, we can’t get all our needs met all the time.  In any given moment, there are usually one or more needs that are more prominent than the others.   So strong and primal are these needs that we are constantly seeking ways (both consciously and unconsciously) to have them met.  Sometimes, we are aware of our needs and can make requests of ourselves or others to get our needs met.  For example, when we feel hungry and have a need for food, we may fix ourselves a sandwich or ask our spouse to take us out to dinner.  Other times, we are not consciously aware of what we’re needing and yet that need will manifest outwardly in an attempt to be met.  Your child’s behavior that you see in front of you is an outward expression of an inward need.

                So let’s take a look at the previous situations and see if we can discern what needs are driving the behaviors that are described:

Your daughter continues to draw instead of putting on her shoes as you asked.

 What needs is she trying to meet?  Creative expression?  Autonomy? 


Your sons are poking each other with their forks instead of eating. 

What needs are they attempting to meet?  Fun?  Play?  Connection? 

Your teenage daughter sneaks out of the house at night and meets up with a few friends. 

What needs is she hoping to meetAcceptance?  Belonging? Fun?


You get exasperated and yell at your young daughter, angrily grab the forks from your sons, and ground your teenage daughter for the rest of her life. 

What needs might you be attempting to meet?  Cooperation and ease?  Peace and harmony?  Safety and peace of mind?

                If we are to maintain our primary intention to connect,  how can we engage our child, address the behaviors, get to the root cause and stay connected?  I believe it starts with an attitude of curiosity.  In other words, we must strive to set an intention to understand what is going on inside of our child.  We must ask ourselves what could possibly be causing the behavior we see so clearly before us?  Then we can connect by making a guess at what our child is experiencing.  Even if we’re wrong with our guess, if we are sincerely investigating in an attempt to connect, we will likely discover what’s going on inside.

                One way we can investigate is by asking questions.  “Are you frustrated that I want you to stop drawing now and put on your shoes because you want to choose what you do?”  Here you are guessing a need for autonomy.  Your daughter may reply, “No, I want to give this to my teacher today.  It’s a picture of a dog and her dog died yesterday.”  This new information may lead you to guess again in order to get an even clearer picture of what’s going on inside of her, “Oh, so you’re wanting to contribute to your teacher and let her know you’re thinking of her?”  “Yeah.  She was really really sad yesterday.” 

                With this short dialogue you now know what is happening inside your daughter.  You have figured out that in this moment she has a need to contribute to her teacher.  Surely you can resonate with her need.  Since needs are universal, you also know what it feels like to want to contribute to someone. 

                Isn’t this useful information to know?  Would this perhaps shift your thinking of “She’s so uncooperative,” or “She never listens to me?”  Once you get down to the needs level, conflicts fade away.  How could you be in opposition to her need to contribute?  The conflict only occurs at the strategy level–the way she has chosen to get her need for contribution met—by drawing a picture when it is normally the time to leave.

                Similarly, it can be just as eye-opening to take a look at what’s happening inside of ourselves when we feel frustrated and anxious or when we speak harshly or start doling out consequences to our children.  Taking the time to pause and understand what it is we need can open up a world of possibilities.  By asking ourselves what need are we longing to meet underneath our behavior we can identify the need and likely find there are more choices to meet that need than we had imagined.

                When interacting with your child and it feels  like she’s simply not listening or doing what is asked, pause and reflect on why it’s important for your child to do what you are requesting.  If you want your daughter to stop drawing and put on her shoes so you can leave for work, perhaps you have a need for cooperation.  You can check inside to see if there are other deeper needs by asking, “And if I had cooperation, what would I have?”  Well, I’d have ease.  “And if I had ease, what would I have?”  I’d feel grounded and connected—to myself and to my daughter.  Ahhhh, aren’t those wonderful needs to have?

                When  you have a clear understanding of what you are really dealing with–your daughter’s need to contribute and your needs for cooperation, ease and connection– together, can you brainstorm solutions that will work for both of you to get your needs met?  Perhaps she will agree to carry the crayons in the car to finish the drawing.  Perhaps you will agree to give her an extra five minutes to finish up.  When you get down to the needs level, you often find an abundance of solutions waiting to be discovered.

The concepts in this chapter, Nurturing Connection Through Setting Your Intentions, are based on the principles of Nonviolent Communication™, a communication process and needs-based consciousness developed by  Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.  To learn more about Nonviolent Communication, visit


Parenting Responsively for Connection


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Written by 12 Parenting Professionals, Parenting Responsively for Connection is a treasure trove of parenting insights, motivations, and tips.   From strengthening connection with your child to making family dinners enjoyable, from guiding your strong-willed child to strategies for school year success, there’s something for everyone in this book.  And since it’s written  from so  many different perspectives, you get a taste of many different experiences.  If you’re wanting to learn how to connect better with your child and respond effectively to their needs, then get your copy of the book today.
(ebook is delivered in pdf format).

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What is Parenting Coaching?

Parenting coaching, first and foremost, is a relationship.   The coach/client relationship enhances your ability to learn, make changes, and achieve desired goals. The coaching process leads you through a systematic framework that helps you to clarify your objectives, explore new options, make decisions and become accountable to act on your choices.

Often, coaching begins with choosing what areas you want to focus on in your family.  Are you experiencing challenges with “temper tantrums,”  sibling squabbling, defiant teenagers?  Are you wanting more connection and fun with your kids, more ease in your daily interactions, or more respect?  Focusing on your areas of concern, you use the coaching framework to set goals, create action items, and make commitments to change.  Together with your coach, you brainstorm strategies, analyze what worked and what didn’t, celebrate successes and receive encouragement and support to move forward toward your goals.

Your parenting coach holds your vision for your family and keeps you connected to it, even when the going gets tough.  Often your coach, as an outsider looking in, can provide an honest assessment and will challenge you to bring out the best in you.  With your parenting coach at your side, you will have the support you need to reach your parenting potential and create the family life you desire.