Why Children Misbehave & What To Do About It

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Dads with young kids don’t fully understand why their child is misbehaving and, a lot of times, they don’t know what to do when it happens.

Just admit that you’ve resorted to dragging your child, who was misbehaving in public, out of a restaurant or sending your child to their room long before you knew what was actually happening.

Truthfully, there are all kinds of reasons why kids misbehave.

Although one of the main reasons why kids misbehave is because they are reenacting what they’ve experienced at home (ouch), there are others. And I think that the more we can understand the root cause of our child’s behavior, the more we can practice empathy.

The more we practice empathy, the more our children will feel loved and understood.

So, in the spirit of being empathetic, here are 11 reasons why kids misbehave and how to address them.

They are tired

This is an obvious one for a newborn, but the same is true for a toddler and even a teenager. The issue shows itself differently, of course, as kids get older, start going to school and playing sports.

How to fix it?

Get your child on a better sleep schedule. Get them home and to bed on time. And remember, you’re not arguing with your own child. You’re arguing with a zombie who has no idea what they’re doing.

They want to exert their independence or control

Around the age of 3 or 4, your kid becomes defiant and challenges everything. You may be in this stage right now… my condolences.

This defiance continues, and even increases, when your child is a teenager. So, get ready to live!

How to fix it?

Give your child choices. Because they want to have control, give them choices, all of which you’re okay with. A creative example for a small child looks like this:

  • Do you want to go up the stairs like a cheetah or an elephant?
  • Would you like to be a mermaid or a dolphin in the bath?

For an older child, it looks like this:

  • Do you want to do your homework at the kitchen table or at your desk in your room?
  • Do you want to read in your room or on the couch before bedtime tonight?

They don’t understand the rules

It could be that nobody ever told them that what they are doing is wrong. In our family, we post our family rules on the walls of our house for this very reason.

The important thing is to remember that kids are kids. They need to be told over and over again.

How to fix it?

Be clear and reinforce what’s expected of them

They are bored

How to fix it?

Don’t try to solve the problem for them. Instead ask them questions like:

  • What are some things that you like to do?
  • What do you feel like doing today?
  • Are there some things that you do that make you happy?

You could also give them a list of choices to help point them in the right direction.

They lack skills

Unlike misunderstanding rules, they just don’t know what to do. It could be that, because they are young, they just haven’t had enough practice at this thing called life.

If they are acting out, it could be out of frustration at not knowing what to do.

How to fix it?

Teach them what they need to know. If they lack the skill to be able to handle it, be empathetic and say, “I can see that’s frustrating for you. Let’s figure it out together.”

Your expectations are too high

I’m sure this has never happened to you, right? You’ve never thought to yourself, “My two-year-old can totally sit through a 3 hour performance of The Nutcracker.” Or, “My son can definitely sit still for an hour at dinner.”

Dads have expectations that are too high. It’s a fact of human nature.

How to fix it?

Lower your expectations. Like the cover of the movie Tommy Boy, if at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards.

The truth is that kids will be kids. And the quicker you understand that, the lower your heart rate will be.

They saw it somewhere else

Your child might have seen the sam behavior from friends, tv, school, at the the playground, or even YOU. Kids are experts at repeated everything they hear and see.

How to fix it?

Talk to your child about it. Depending on their age, have a healthy conversation about why their behavior might not be appropriate.

The key to the conversation? Explain to them what they SHOULD be doing and don’t focus too much on what they shouldn’t be doing.

They don’t know how to control their emotions

This is very common and is especially true for young kids who are feeling strong emotions for the first time. They can’t clearly communicate their feelings and, as a result, they get really frustrated.

How to fix it?

Teach them how to calm themselves.

  • Breathing techniques
  • Grabbing and squeezing their shirt really tightly
  • Having some private time

The bottom line is that you want them to know that having emotion is okay. But they need to learn an appropriate way to channel it.

Podcast Ep. 110 11 Reasons Why Young Children Misbehave & What To Do About it

They are hungry

In our house, we say, “someone is hangry.” Hungry + angry = hangry. From birth to adulthood, humans get angry and say all kinds of disrespectful things when they’re hungry.

How to fix it?

Make sure kids are snacking and consuming the amount of calories they need throughout the day. They need more food than you think they do because their metabolism is flying… unlike the rest of us.

They want attention

Many times, your child will misbehave in public because they want your attention. They might not know how to express their need for attention, so they choose to act out.

How to fix it?

  1. Check out episode 108 of our podcast. In it, we talk about how to manage a child who is prone to attention seeking behavior.
  2. Don’t give them the attention they’re looking for. Ignore the bad behavior until they realize their strategy isn’t working.
  3. Seek professional counseling. There’s no shame in talking to someone who can help. If you get the sense that your child’s bad behavior is the result of something like a desire for attention, it wouldn’t hurt to get some professional advice.

They’ve been rewarded for bad behavior

In this scenario, they’ve learned that they get attention for doing something wrong, so they just keep doing it. Most parents address bad behavior instead of the positive, something that children pick up on pretty quickly.

How to fix it?

Focus your attention on positive behavior and ignore the negative. Eventually, your child will realize that they get the attention they need by doing what’s right.

The key: don’t give them attention if they are misbehaving to get it.

I hope this article has been helpful. Do you have any questions about how to make it all work? If so, let us know. We’re here to help you become the best dad you can be!

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