All mother’s will have to deal with the stress of having their kids act out at some point. When your kids aren’t listening to the family rules or are pushing back it can be hard on you as a parent.
I’ve been really trying to dive into the why our kids act out in the first place. As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons why our children might misbehave and bad behavior never means you have a bad child.
Kids act out when they are facing challenges in their home and school environment. Bad behavior may also be a power struggle or directly related to the stage they are at in child development. Usually there is a reason behind acting out in children.
What are some ways kids can act out?
There are many ways kids can act out and misbehave. They could be having bad behavior at home, at school, at daycare, or with a care provider.
- Disobeying house or school rules
- Talking back or arguing with parents or teacher
- Throwing tantrums
- Being loud or disruptive
- Hitting, biting, kicking, or acting in a violent way
- Arguing with siblings
- Taking things that don’t belong to them
- Being disrespectful to parents or teacher
- Throwing or destroying things
- Harming themselves, other people, or pets
- Running away
- Declining school performance, skipping classes, or poor school conduct
*Disclaimer- If you think your child is a danger to themselves, another person, or a pet seek immediate help from a medical or mental health professional.
Discipline and Misbehavior in Kids
It can be difficult to know exactly how to react when our children act out, but sometimes our response to children who misbehave may make the problem worse.
Studies of over 200 Kindergarten children showed that parent’s and teachers reacted who used negative discipline techniques had children who increased their bad conduct at home and at school. (Wichita State University)
So, our parenting strategies can have a direct effect on our children’s behavior. The same could be said of babysitter’s, grandparents, and school teachers who might have regular contact with your child.
How can you change this behavior?
- Try these Positive Parenting Strategies
- Change babysitter’s if this is the source of the problem
- Communicate with your child’s teacher and become more involved in the classroom
- Speak with your child’s grandparents about how you would like your child to be disciplined
- Evaluate your own parenting to see if you can include these calm parenting tips
Child Development and Acting Out
Sometimes your child will react to a situation by throwing a tantrum, whining, complaining, nagging, or breaking the house rules.
Many times this is a normal reaction that is in line with your child’s development, depending on what age they are. For example, a toddler will throw a tantrum because they don’t know how to communicate to you what is frustrating you.
Our tweens go through puberty and lots of emotional changes. With this can come moodiness and pushing back. There is definitely a reason for this behavior and it directly relates to their development at this stage.
How can you change this behavior?
- Work on preventing toddler tantrums before they happen
- Find out when you should worry about your toddler’s tantrums
- Engage your kids in positive family activities
- Keep open communication with your kids and teens
- Be aware of your child’s development relating to the age they are. Don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician… Is this normal behavior?
Attention Seeking Behavior Problems
As a work at home mom I know the balance of making sure my kids feel important and being able to spend time on my business. Being a present parent while balancing an at home business, homeschooling, and 3 kids isn’t always an easy task.
When we become busy as parents we sometimes forget to spend intentional positive time with our kids. Our interactions with them can then become more negative than positive.
This is especially true if our kids are only getting a reaction from us when they act out. It’s only natural Kids want that attention and care given directly to them, but most likely not in that negative way. (Michigan State University)
How can you change the behavior?
- Spend more intentional (positive) time with your kids. Try these daily positive affirmations for kids.
- Don’t spend time letting the mom guilt eat away at you. It happens and no parents are perfect. Try to make small changes to improve the interactions you have with your child each day.
- If you work from home evaluate ways you can plan your day with your kids in mind. Try these tips for working at home with kids.
- Try these fun toddler activities and preschooler activities to spend quality one on one time each day.
- Plan mommy and me dates to spend one on one time with each child.
A Child’s Environment and Acting Out
Your child’s environment can play a big role in how they are acting at home and at school. They might be hungry, sad, or upset about something. Sometimes you might not have any idea what is going on.
Anything from a recent move, divorce, death in the family (even a pet), school change, bullying, and abuse can cause behavioral changes in your child. Children are sensitive to environmental changes and can express how they feel through their behavior.
How can you change the behavior?
- If you suspect any abuse at home or elsewhere steps should be taken immediately to stop it. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, your local police department, pediatrician, or child services to get advice on how to proceed.
- Take steps to get your child therapy if they’ve been through anything that might have been traumatic like a divorce or family death.
- Change what you can at home. Try to model calm and positive behavior in front of your children. They are watching you for an example.
- Be an open source of communication with your children, so they feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
- Look out for signs of bullying and address them with your child’s school.
- Try these tips for how parents can help their children deal with stress.
Can health and psychological problems cause your child to misbehave?
Yes, health and psychological conditions do play a role in your child’s behavior. These conditions often make it beyond your child’s control to behave in a way that many people would accept as normal. But, to them it is normal.
Of course if your child isn’t feeling well they may act out. My kids get cranky and upset when they have a common cold. Especially with little ones, if they don’t feel good and don’t know why, they could cry, throw tantrums, and act out. It should end when your child starts feeling better.
Look for not so obvious health issues too. If your child has frequent headaches, they could be grumpy. But, this could also mean that they might need glasses. This could fix the entire behavioral issue.
Psychological Conditions That Could Cause Behavioral Change
|Condition||How can it impact your child’s behavior||Requirements for diagnoses|
|ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)||Your child may develop a pattern of negative, hostile, or defiant behavior. If your child is constantly breaking rules, arguing, losing their temper, or easily annoyed you may want to explore ODD.||Behavior must have occurred for 6 months or more. |
Can be diagnosed by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.
|Anxiety||Children with anxiety have difficulty dealing with stressful situations. They may start acting out in an effort to cope with their anxiety.||Can be diagnosed by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.|
|OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)||If your child is dealing with OCD they may become upset with you if you do not provide them enough reassurance to their intrusive thoughts and obsessive fears. Frustration can lead to screaming, tantrums, and meltdowns.||Can be diagnosed by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.|
|ADHD||ADHD causes impulsivity in children that can make it hard for them to sit still and can cause behavioral problems in the classroom or at home. Their impatience may cause them to speak at the wrong time or have difficulty waiting for their turn.||Can be diagnosed by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.|
|Learning Disabilities||Kids get frustrated when they can’t do something they should be able to do. Learning disabilities may make it difficult for your child to complete math, reading, or other work in the classroom. They often deal with this frustration with problematic behavior. Often to distract the teacher from the work they need to complete.||Discuss concerns with your child’s teacher or a health professional if you are a homeschooling parent. There are many resources to help struggling learners.|
|Sensory Processing Disorders||Tantrums and disruptive behavior may occur as a result of sensory overload in children with Sensory Processing Disorders. Kids with these disorders can also experience a “fight or flight” feeling in uncomfortable situations and want to leave.||Can be diagnosed by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.|
How can you change the behavior?
- Explore any suspected health problems with a health or mental health specialist.
- Discuss concerns with your child’s teacher and school to find supports available to help them.
- If your child does have a diagnoses discuss behaviors with your mental health provider to try and find support available to your child.
- There are a lot of resources available to parents of children with psychological conditions. In the meantime remember that your child isn’t always in control in their behavior. Remain persistent, involved, and positive with your child and their health care.
A lot of behavioral issues in children can be helped by growing your parent child relationship. It just helps to strengthen communication skills not only with your child who’s struggling, but within the whole family. This way everyone always feels connected, important, and on the same page. How do you strengthen your relationship with your child?
While acting out it’s important that we teach our kids to express their feelings in a respectful way. You want them to learn how to respect adults no matter where they are. Acting out can be seen as a sign of disrespect, especially if your child is at school or doing an extracurricular activity where you can’t monitor their behavior. How can you teach your kids respect in a positive way?