Seven Reasons Children Misbehave
Its important for parents to understand why children misbehave. Parents can
respond more effectively when they know what the problem is. Weve identified
seven broad reasons why children misbehave.
Sometime children "act up" to get your attention. Usually,
this occurs because children have mistaken ideas about their relationships with you. When
this happens you can ignore the misbehavior and give the child attention during pleasant
times, you can redirect the child into useful behavior, or you can impose a logical
consequence for the childs actions.
Children learn by observing others. Sometimes when they imitate us, we
say they are misbehaving. For example, if you swear, your child may also use bad language.
When this happens, you need to change your behavior and remember to be consistent in what
you teach and what you say.
Sometimes a childs misbehavior is really their way of testing you.
Children often want to know if you believe in what you say. When this happens you need to
take action in a firm, but kind and consistent manner. Talking about taking action does
little good. You also need to decide what you will do, not what you will try to make the
Misbehavior can also be a sign that a child is growing up, and growing
up means striving to become independent from you. If this happens you can both take a
cooling off period. During this time its important that you remain friendly until
things return to normal. Or you can give the child a choice of what the child wants to do,
rather than impose your choice.
When a child is feeling threatened or afraid, he or she can misbehave.
Her misbehavior is a way of protecting herself. When you think this is happening, ask the
child how she is feeling. Reassure her if she is feeling fearful or in danger. You can
then help her deal with these emotions. Never minimize her feelings or tell her that her
emotions dont make sense.
Sometimes children misbehave because they are feeling bad about
themselves. In other words, they feel bad, therefore they act badly. You can help by first
identifying the cause of the misbehavior. Then try to encourage the child and boost his or
her self-esteem. You can do this by arranging for small successes or finding opportunities
to compliment him on his behavior.
Children also misbehave when they are tired, hungry or sick. To prevent
this type of misbehavior you can schedule your errands when children are rested and fed.
You can try to keep a regular schedule so children eat meals at the same time, take naps
if they need them, and go to bed at a regular time each night. If a child is sick,
its important that a parent or caregiver stay at home with him until he feels
Source: University of Minnesota Extension
Service, InfoU script -- Positive Parenting
Sarah Staude, StaudeS@missouri.edu
Regional Specialist, 4-H Youth
Cass County, Missouri
University of Missouri Extension