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Behaviors At Home

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Escape from Pain

Of all the primary needs, this may be the most important one to consider when you’re trying to figure out why your child is misbehaving.

People will go to great extremes to escape pain, whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain. In fact, they usually don’t consider the consequences of their behavior when acting badly to escape pain. They are so intent on escaping the pain, they don’t consider what other people think of their behavior or how it will affect others.

We are all wired to escape pain. It’s the choices we make to cope with the pain in our lives that can determine whether the results are seen by others as good or as misbehavior.

Drug abuse, gangs, suicides, drinking, mental illness, and other social problems are, in large part, responses to pain of various kinds. We watch the drunk attempting to walk down the street and we remark, “He (or she) is feeling no pain.” You usually only have to watch TV commercials for a few minutes at night to notice all the “easy” ways we use to escape pain.

A child may feel very “dumb” in a particular subject in school, for example, and this may cause him or her a great deal of pain. The child’s choice of misbehavior may well be a means of covering the pain of not achieving. For instance, a boy may be able to prevent others from finding out he is “dumb” in social studies by disrupting the class, especially if he thinks that the teacher won’t call on him if she is distracted by disciplining him.

Children, like everyone else, experience a great deal of physical or mental pain. The pain may result from the loss of a parent through death or divorce, or from poor health, financial problems in the family, difficulty in relationships with family or friends, or trouble in school. Any failure that causes pain—even if it seems trivial to an adult—may be the major contributor to misbehavior in the school or classroom.

Remember that the child may know the behavior is wrong. But he or she may still misbehave in an attempt to reduce the pain. Reducing the pain becomes a primary motivator—and nothing anybody says seems to make a difference. Many discipline problems can be traced back to the primary need to escape pain.

Could your child’s behavior problems be an attempt to escape from some type of pain in his or her life? Take every opportunity you can to talk with your child about what’s going on at home and at school.

Don’t hesitate to contact the school if you suspect your child’s pain stems from something going on there. Remember, the school wants your child to do well, too.

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Please Note
We are labeling behaviors, not children! For the sake of convenience, we will describe behaviors with terms such as The Whiner or The Interrupter.

Never use such labels when talking to—or about—children! Doing so could cause many new problems and seriously damage the teacher-student or parent-child relationship.