I see a mom who told a child not to climb on the furniture a hundred times, and yet, that child continues the behavior right in front of the mom, knowing full well she should not. Classic.
If we approach the "Why?" with a presupposition that all behavior is an effort to get a need met, we may first entertain the explanation that the girl simply wants her mother's attention. If she can't get the attention she craves with "good" behavior, she acts in a manner her mother cannot ignore. There are countless other explanations of what could be happening here. Feel free to comment if you wish.
Whether the mom's response is to yell at the child, spank her, or send her to her room, the need for attention (i.e., the desire to be seen and have one's existence validated by another human being) has been met. The behavior was successful. The girl may not feel loved, but the mom has acknowledged that this child is alive and present. This is a more fundamental need than being loved.
We forget that an 18th birthday is not a magic threshold to maturity. All living creatures have needs and use strategic behaviors throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes the strategies seem contrary to good health and success in life.
Consider (1) a melodramatic office worker who constantly complains about inconsequential things (e.g., the copier is out of paper, again! Disaster!). (2) An employee has been given notice that if they continue to be late to work, they will be fired, and they still do not show up on time. And (3) the person who says they hate being in jail but immediately make poor decisions that put them right back.
Perhaps the dramatic office worker has an existential need to be seen, like the girl in the photo.
Maybe the employee who continues to be late actually wants to be fired because they are unhappy and unable to plan their own exit.
Perhaps the repeat offender needs the structure, safety, and emotional security that being imprisoned provides. Maybe they had a chaotic childhood and did not develop the ability to provide structure for themselves as an adult because they had no positive role models.
What is the most helpful way to support these three people?
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