Greystone House Montessori Schools Houston, Texas. Child care Montessori provider in Champions, The Woodlands, Spring Texas Greystone House Montessori Schools Houston
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This is a title from an old song about how a person choses to be faithful to a sweetheart. It’s appropriate for our attitude about how our children seem to know exactly how to push all our buttons to send us into a fit of unreasonable behavior that we swore we would never do. We call it misbehavior in our children. In fact, if we can access our emotional intelligence and objectively observe our child’s goals, the behavior has a goal. It may not be our goal, but it’s totally reasonable for the child at the time.

It’s generally accepted that children’s misbehavior comes in four categories: need for attention, for power, for revenge, or from inadequacy. From our status as an emotionally intelligent adult, we want to shift our children into a positive position of contribution, responsibility, sense of justice and collaboration. If we can view these positive goals in the light of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the child’s struggle to achieve outcomes becomes more clear. At the lowest level of the hierarchy are physiological needs for food, water, and rest. Adults are quick to respond to a fussy baby’s need for a nap or a cranky toddler’s need for a snack. Most of us are pretty good with meeting this first level of needs, as well as the second level for safety, stability, and shelter.

It’s the third level where our children begin to have a need for belongingness and acceptance that we falter. Our children want to feel like they can contribute in a meaningful way. When they are accepted as the person they are, the spill might not have been cleaned up as perfectly as we want or the table might not be set perfectly. We have to accept the child is in the process of practicing how to fit into the culture of his life. “Good enough” can be very effective when we keep working on getting better.

That moves us to the fourth level in the hierarchy, the level yearning for power, accomplishment, and recognition. If adults can give a child confidence that she is capable, that she can make her own decisions and be responsible for them, and that she can help make the world a better place, the child begins to develop her own sense of power and attitude that she can do it.

Fifth and sixth levels have been added to Maslow’s hierarchy since he developed it. They are the sense of order and beauty at the fifth level and then the need to know, to understand, and to explore at the sixth level. These are levels particularly treasured by Montessorians, and we work really hard to empower our children to achieve — even revel in — these needs. As children are enabled to internalize the sense that they are satisfying these inner needs, we see the last two goals of misbehavior, revenge and inadequacy, begin to disappear.

The highest level in the hierarchy is self-actualization, sometimes labeled transcendence. It sounds pretty grownup, but in fact, it’s observable at every level of human development. It’s experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration. It’s trying new things and being honest, as children are notoriously famous for. It’s taking responsibility and working hard. When we appreciate that our child is earnestly striving to meet these needs, it makes that misbehavior more tolerable and one we can work with. Seeing and understanding the “other” that is our child allows us to honor the worth and dignity of the little people who have invaded our homes and our hearts. And at the next exhibition of misbehavior, we’ll take a deep breath and understand what our child is trying to accomplish.