A Different Perspective on Difficult Behaviour

In my last post, I explored the topic of self-esteem, or as I outlined, Inner Wealth™. This is a big focus for parents, guardians, educators, caregivers and treatment professionals alike.  When we understand that how we feel helps guide how we behave, we can intuitively get that we need to address the ‘inside’ – always. But what do we DO when faced with difficult behaviour?

Difficult behaviour is another thing about children that causes many of us to sprout gray hair. This is the part that can happen on the ‘outside’.

I am guessing you are similar to me in having an image come to mind right now.  An image of something your child did at some point that was embarrassing, annoying, infuriating, and maybe even rage inducing.  Yeah – not a highlight of my parenting journey either!

There was a study done that looked at the personality traits and behaviors of 12-year-old students to see what kind of professional success could be predicted 40 years later. The study wanted to go beyond looking at the socioeconomic status of the parents as well as the IQ of the child. You can read the full study here but one of the discoveries caught my attention. It found that defiance or “rule breaking” can be a predictor of higher income later in life.

So, what does this tell us really?  Should we encourage our children to break rules in order to pay for the mortgage on our beach house in our golden years?  Maybe when we give our children a limit and they respond with defiance that we tolerate the behavior?

Would you all agree the answer is (or pretty close to) – hell no? Most would also, probably, be on the same page in saying that these types of behaviours are hard to deal with and hard to experience. We have a whole host of buttons that get pushed when our children are not behaving in a way we would like.

I think what the study encourages us to do is take a different perspective on difficult behaviour. It encourages us to admit the moment we are in is rough but understand that maybe there is more to it.

I think that looking at perceptions can help.

  • Our perception – how we choose to see a behaviour is completely within our control.

For many behaviours we consider to be ‘difficult’ – and that list can vary for everyone and even day by day – there is a flip side.  If we only look at what we can tolerate, we might not see what we can accept and even radically appreciate in another. Only a shift in our perception will allow us to see that side and help it grow.

When my daughter has a complete meltdown as we are trying to leave the house because her tights are too tight (really !?!?!  did the name not send a clue about how they would feel!) I can see this as embarrassing, controlling, manipulative etc. Perhaps I can also see it a powerful expression of her knowledge of what feels right to her.  Don’t I want her to have that capability? To feel free to express her greatness of staying clear and focused on what she believes to be right for her?

Well, I do, but I also want her to get her bloody tights on! What I really want is for my daughter to feel good about this quality, learn how to express it appropriately and not get the message that I feel she is controlling, manipulative etc.

Afterall, when we hear or FEEL something enough, we start to believe it.

  • The other person’s perception – how someone chooses to behave (or react) is not necessarily a direct line to what they are reacting about.

How someone chooses to act is more a reflection of how they feel. What they feel is a combination of their experiences, perceptions and beliefs about who they are, their capabilites and what they need to do to cope. We may never know why someone behaves how they do. However, We CAN understand that how someone chooses to behave is not necessarily a direct reflection of who they are or what they are capable of.

Maybe the last time she wore tights, someone made a comment about them that my daughter had a negative connection to. Perhaps she is feeling out of sorts about other things. Possibly, she doesn’t like something else about them but does not have the ability to express that. It could even be something else that happened to her that was heart breaking and she can’t find the words to say it.

This goes beyond our children and spills over into all of our relationships – both personally and professionally.  When someone behaves in a way we don’t like, we often address the action at face value.

I think what this study does, is give us the evidence to motivate us to frame behaviour differently.

  • What we think is ‘difficult behaviour’ might very well have a positive side that can serve our children well in the future.
  • What is behind the behaviour is a person who might see the situation very differently

So, what do we do with the ‘difficult behaviour’? Do we tolerate it? Do we communicate that who they are is a problem?

It is human nature to want be more of whatever is celebrated in each of us.  We need the view that helps us see what there is to celebrate – even when (maybe even especially when) things are going bad.

Celebrate the good! What we focus on expands.

  • appreciate it deeply when it is clearly there
  • shift your perspective to find it when it is clearly in hiding
  • take care of yourself so your heart and eyes can be open to the possibility of greatness

Instead of trying to change people which is utterly exhausting and futile, try reflecting what you really see. Use your power of perception to see the flip side of the behaviour. Access your capacity for compassion to see who (at their core) is behind the behavior. Then, instead of trying to control a challenging behaviour, try feeding the positive manifestation of it and the person who is capable of doing it.

See how you can shift your perspective!

Marny Elliott is a Nurtured Heart Approach® (NHA) Trainer, Coach and Emotional Health Therapist. She empowers parents, educators etc. to use this effective, heart centered approach to transform behaviour, build relationships and grow the Inner Wealth® of children. In addition, she provides holistic counselling to adults seeking to address defeating patterns and improve their emotional health. Please visit, email or call 250.218.8702.




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