Understanding and Transforming Disruptive Behavior

By Greg Baer M.D.

July 10, 2024

I talked to a mother, Lia, who is quite familiar with the Parenting Training. She said, “Not long ago I began teaching a church class of girls ages eight to ten. The eight- and nine-year-old girls have been pretty easy. 

"But I have a ten-year-old, Brooke, who is disrupting the entire class. She is always talking to someone, often interrupting whatever they are doing. She interrupts me too, making the entire class chaotic at times. I tried to talk to her about her attitude and behavior, and at one point she actually said, ‘I love attitude.’

"I’m bewildered.”

Why a Child Chooses to Be Disruptive

“First, understand what is happening,” I said. “Somebody is teaching her that with Attitude she will get what she wants. She has learned that if she simply asks for attention or anything else, she is ignored. However, if she is demanding enough—just a version of whining, like a two-year-old—people tend to listen. And of course, they do. 

"People are simply trying to get her to shut up, and by feeding her whining attitude, they are raising a child who will become increasingly impossible. They have no idea how bad this is going to get.”

How Children Learn to Be Disruptive 

Lia continued: “I watched her sitting with her family at a church meeting recently. Brooke was entertaining herself quietly with creating patterns from string, but her little brother, maybe three years old, kept bothering her, trying to take the string. Brooke mostly ignored him as she read instructions about how to create different patterns, but the brother got louder.”

“OF COURSE he got louder,” I said. “In that family, the children have learned that if you want something, you only need to get louder and more demanding—‘attitude’—and you’re more likely to get what you want. 

"You previously saw it in Brooke, and now you’ve seen it in her brother. The parents have taught their children, quite unconsciously, a family rule: If you want something, you have to whine and fuss before we pay attention. They didn’t mean to teach it, but with their behavior, they did, more powerfully than if the rule had only been spoken.” 

“The mother of the family,” Lia said, “finally got irritated at all the noise and grabbing, so she said something to Brooke, and then Brooke frowned and gave the string to her brother. The boy became quiet as he played with his new toy, and the mother gave Brooke a smug and knowing look that said, ‘See! That's what you have to do to quiet him down.’” 

“Attitude rules,” I said. “Victimhood rules. Whining rules. The parents are teaching their children that happiness comes from being demanding and selfish, and the kids have learned well. They are teaching their children lies that will cause them so much suffering over time.”

“It seems,” Lia said, “like the mother was teaching the little boy to be a bully. She let him take what he wanted from Brooke, and she felt powerless to do anything.”

“Outstanding observation. Mom is teaching both children these principles, as you have personally seen.”

Parents Need to Make Conscious Choices 

As parents, we are ALWAYS teaching our children. We’re always teaching SOMETHING, and if we don’t consciously teach them to feel loved, and to be loving and responsible, we WILL be teaching them principles that do not lead to happiness in this life or the next.

My experience is that almost all the principles of life that children have learned have been unconsciously taught, which means that most people are blindly wandering in the darkness and confusion of the world, led by other people—notably their parents—who are similarly blind. 

And THAT is why we need to learn as parents to make conscious choices about what we intentionally teach our children. That is the purpose of this entire training.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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