Has your child been acting out a lot recently? In this article, we’ll talk about the possible reasons why they’re acting out that way and how you can keep yourself from losing your cool when they do.
Kids can be both simple and complicated at times. Simple, because they don’t really want much (at least, not as much as the grownups). But they’re also complicated because when they start crying and throwing tantrums, it can take you some time trying to figure out why. To understand why kids misbehave or act a certain way, you need to make them feel capable of acting in their own way.
For example, you cannot expect them to present good behavior when they receive no positive attention. To make children understand their behavior problems, you will need them to develop their social skills. Only then can they understand and be on their best behavior.
Here’s Why Kids Misbehave
When children “act out,” don’t focus on the kind of misbehavior they do. We know it can be tempting to conclude that your kid is simply “testing your limits” or “pushing your buttons” to see what would push you overboard. But relax. It’s not any of those. It is less about those attention-seeking behaviors and more about power struggles in real life.
You cannot mandate correct behavior or identify behavior problems as it is. Spend time with your children more and keep them from seeking negative attention upon themselves. The root cause of such behavior is usually fixed by enforcing positive power and ensuring that the child gets more sleep. Too much screen time does not have to be a determining factor, but it is essential to set proper ground rules to influence them positively.
Instead of taking their misbehavior personally, focus on what triggered that misbehavior. With children, their behavior (and misbehavior) are all methods they use to communicate their thoughts to us. Now it’s up to us, grownups, to ‘crack the code.’
So just in case you’ve been wondering why your child has been in their less-than-ideal behavior, we’ve compiled a list of 15+ reasons to enlighten you about what’s going on in your child’s mind.
#1 They're hungry
This one’s plain and simple. Your kid is throwing a fit because he wants food. Why can’t they ask you nicely, you wonder? Because they’re kids. They don’t have the ability just yet to articulate what they need exactly. And you do know how it feels like to be irritable simply because you’re low on sugar.
So the next time your child purposely annoys you, try to think of the last time they’ve had anything to eat. That can help you identify the real culprit.
#2 They're tired
Like grownups, children become cranky when they don’t get the amount of rest they need or when they’re exhausted. Sure, your kid may look like they never run out of energy, what with the amount of running they do every single day. But yes, kids also feel exhausted, and when they do, it can get ugly for us parents real quick.
Has your kid been throwing a lot of stuff lately? Maybe all they need is just a little rest. Whether this is the case or not, one thing is for sure. This, too, shall pass.
#3 They feel like peeing
Seriously. We’re not even kidding about this. Some kids misbehave simply because they have a full bladder they can’t tell you about (articulation problems, remember?).
Because this one is not a common trigger, parents often overlook this part. But yeah, if they’re grabbing their sibling’s toys nonstop, why not try giving our little one a bathroom break? That may help them improve their mood better.
#4 Something is worrying them
It’s not just the grownups who get all queasy about an upcoming change. Children feel it too, sometimes more than the grownups. And because they can’t express themselves and they don’t know how to handle these overwhelming emotions just yet, they decide to vent out their stress some other way.
For example, some kids intentionally refuse meals. If that’s the case with your child, don’t immediately conclude that you’re a horrible cook. Again, it can simply be because your child is overwhelmed with all their emotions.
Think of their tantrums as their attempt at regaining control over their lives. Because they know that when they cry, everyone else in the family rushes to their help.
#5 It's how they express fear
Fear can come in different forms, sometimes masked as a tantrum. There are so many things that kids fear – things unknown to them. Some common examples of things that kids fear are monsters, the dark, robbers, and even tiny critters like roaches and mice.
These fears can be so disturbing to them that they lose their balance when triggered. And really, it doesn’t take much to trigger a child. You just present them with something or someone they’re scared of, and they’ll cry as a way of handling the stress.
When that happens, assure them that everything’s alright and that you’re doing what you could to ensure they’re safe from whatever it is they fear.
#6 Other people have influenced them to misbehave
Children are like sponges. They can soak up their environment real fast, and the next thing you know, your child is now behaving the same way that your next-door neighbor does.
So make sure to keep an eye out for the type of friends and even daycare buddies your children hang out with. You don’t want them picking up the wrong things from other people and just bringing those undesirable traits home.
But you shouldn’t be picky with their immediate environment alone. You also have to be picky about the types of shows they watch or listen to. For example, today’s online channels show children’s videos that promote undesirable traits, such as throwing things on the floor to get what they want.
What can you do if you feel that your child has been influenced the wrong way?
Promptly sit them down and let them know that their behavior is unacceptable at home. This will help them realize early on that they need to lose whatever trait they’ve picked up somewhere.
#7 They're simply acting the way you do
Ever heard of ‘mirroring’? That can be the case with your child’s latest set of tantrums. We know this one stings, but remember how we said that kids are like sponges?
Since you are part of their immediate environment, how you act and talk around them can greatly impact the type of behavior they’ll show. Children misbehave only when they have no other means to grab your attention.
For example, does your child hear you swear a lot? Then don’t be surprised if your child belts out a string of curses as well. They most likely picked up that habit from you.
The chances are that they don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. Because their mom definitely wouldn’t do anything bad, would she?
So the next thing your child acts out, try to double-check if they’re simply mirroring the type of behavior you show. And if you realize that they’re just mimicking you, then it’s about time for some changes.
#8 They're mad
Well, surprise, surprise. Your kid is throwing a fit because they’re mad. And the reasons behind this could range from something as simple as forgetting to buy them that Barbie doll you promised you would, or not letting them eat that last scoop of ice cream they wanted, or whatever it is that got them upset.
The list of your child’s frustrations could be endless. And these could either be fleeting or substantial, but their response would likely be the same: take that anger and frustration out on you.
So what can you do when they decide to paint your living room sofa with your red lipstick? Don’t lose your calm just yet. You getting mad will only make things worse. Calmly validate their emotions until you get to the bottom of what they’re feeling: whether it’s sadness or fear.
Then, teach them to express their anger better, such as through painting, writing, or singing. That will help them understand that while it’s okay to feel angry from time to time, they need to channel their anger the right way.
#9 They're downright frustrated
Have you ever felt like tearing all of your hair out in frustration just because you can’t do this one thing right? Or tear your 100th draft to pieces because you’re fed up with your lack of eloquence? It’s that same feeling of frustration that could drive your kid into a full-blown tantrum.
It could be that they’re frustrated over not feeding themselves properly because their spoon keeps falling off their tiny hands. Or they might be frustrated because they can’t go beyond a few wobbly steps. And because they’re feeling frustrated, they swat their brother on the head.
Now we’re not saying that it’s okay to have them hit their sibling’s head. We’re saying that frustration is normal, and it’s our role as parents to make sure that frustration is expressed without hurting other people in the process.
So the next time your child feels frustrated, allow them to talk their feelings out. Or to cry their frustration out. Acknowledge that their feelings are normal. That should help them get a better grip on their raging emotions.
#10 They're feeling sad
Children are generally not the greatest at handling big emotions simply because their emotional maturity has not yet fully developed to do so.
As parents, we do not like seeing our children sad, but we need to acknowledge that they may also feel that way from time to time. This is especially the case when our kids have to go through major life changes.
So instead of telling your kid to be happy, which they couldn’t possibly do at the moment, allow them to release that emotion. Ask them if they want to talk about it. That way, your kids will understand that there’s nothing wrong with feeling sad or expressing sadness. That they don’t have to pretend to be okay for the rest of the world to see. This lesson will serve them well in the future.
#11 They're just curious
Your child’s misbehavior may not seem like they’re just curious about things and may feel more like they’re trying to rub you the wrong way. But really, sometimes kids push objects over, throw stuff, climb rails and touch things simply because they’re genuinely curious about how the entire experience would feel.
So the next time your child starts throwing things around (hopefully not your mother’s china), give them another object that they could throw instead. Something that won’t shatter and won’t make too much noise. Like their teddy bear, for example.
Again, we want to redirect their negative behavior and turn it into a learning experience for them as they discover how to get ahold of their emotions better.
#12 They have no idea that they're misbehaving
For your child, scribbling on your pristine, white walls may be nothing more than harmless fun. Maybe they thought your wall was a huge canvas set up for them. Okay, that was a bad joke, right.
But seriously. Your kid probably has no idea that they’re going overboard with their antics. Maybe they even thought you’d enjoy their spark of genius and creativity.
So before they go overboard, make sure you’ve set clear boundaries at home. Let them know what is and what isn’t allowed. What’s acceptable and what’s not. And make them understand that there will be consequences next time they overstep their limits. That should help minimize more instances of misbehavior.
Meanwhile, you can have them help you clean the mess they made so they’d learn that whatever they do, they’ll have to clean up after themselves.
#13 They don't understand why you're setting limits
Remember those days when you just can’t understand why you’re mom keeps telling you not to do stuff? Like, everything was just a long list of Don’ts. Don’t touch this. Don’t do that. Which ends with, “Do as I say because I’m the mom.” Or something to that effect.
And we used to hate that, remember?
So the same goes for your kid. They need to understand why they’re not allowed to do things. Otherwise, they’ll keep testing your limits to see how far they can get away with their ‘crime.’
Now what? Now that you know the possible reason behind your kid’s efforts to disobey your every rule try to explain the logic behind each. That may help them be more obedient to you.
#14 They've been 'cooped up' for too long
As parents, we’re always concerned about our children’s well-being. So much so that we might not even notice that we’re being a little too controlling for our children’s good.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with keeping our children safe with wanting to keep them as far away from danger as possible. But we might unknowingly be pushing them away from all the things they need to experience themselves.
By shielding them too much and by enforcing fear-based parenting, we may be pushing them to fight against the restraints we’ve set. And when they do, the repercussions could be damaging.
For example, children are more likely to lie about their deeds if they know how harsh the consequences would be if they found out what they did wrong. And we don’t want our kids to hide things from us, don’t we? Because how else can we help them?
So before things spiral down that bottomless pit, we must understand one thing: Children resent the feeling of being overly controlled. While your kids need a measure of your control, it’s also essential that you strike a balance between discipline and dominance.
#15 You're not being consistent
Children are good at spotting inconsistencies, and they love taking advantage of that. When they see that your NOs become YESes eventually, after much whining and crying, they’ll repeat that pattern until you give in to their wishes. Very clever, kids.
So if your kid is acting up because you said NO for the 5th time to a request you said YES to the other day, then it’s really because they’re not sure what changed for you to decline their request today.
Children, like grownups, are creatures of habit. So if you want your kids to follow your rules at home, you have to make sure to stay consistent. What’s NO today should stay NO tomorrow. And it should stay NO even if they turn to their daddies for ‘rescue.’ Or even if they bawl their eyes out.
When your kids see that they couldn’t sway your decision with their antics, they’ll ultimately learn to live within the boundaries you’ve set for them.
#16 Your kids are stressed
Believe it or not, kids feel stressed too. Of course, not over the same things that we get stressed about, but the pressure is more or less the same. And the damage this pressure brings can be far worse for them, simply because they’re kids and couldn’t handle such intense emotions yet.
So if your kid is under a lot of stress, perhaps because of schoolwork or other people’s expectations, try to do what you can to help them carry the mental and emotional load. And give them the chance to relax and de-stress.
If you think this is why kids misbehave, you can give them a long stretch of uninterrupted playtime. Or let them rest. That should help them improve their mood drastically.