Everyone likes to feel that they have a purpose in life. Generally speaking, people want to be helpful, needed, and a contributing member of society (or a family). Sometimes knowing how to go about that is difficult. It can be even more so when you are small and have seemingly little to offer. When this need to help is not being met, it can manifest itself in less than desirable behaviors.
My three year old is going through a phase right now. He is aware and proud of his independence but still needs help with many things. He wants to contribute to our family but doesn’t always know how. Sometimes this presents as him following a family member around, most notably an older sibling or his father, and acting in ways they don’t appreciate. Asking him to stop doesn’t help with his needs. Instead, it is times like these that he seems to need some positive direction.
Positive direction differs from redirection; positive direction directs the person to an idea or outlet that meets their unmet need. When my son begins bothering someone in our family, I’ve found it very beneficial to help him with some positive direction. Simply put, I ask him if he would like to help me with something. That one simple question, regardless of what it is, is enough to meet his need to help out. It doesn’t matter if he helps me make cookies, wash walls, or pick up toys. He is a contributing member of our family and happy to be so. Of course, there is also the added benefit of some special time with a parent.