Why Do Children Misbehave

Children misbehave and act out for many reasons.  If you take the time to figure out why your child is acting poorly instead of just reacting, it might go a long way to solving the problem.  Some reasons why children misbehave are:

  • Boredom
  • Immaturity
  • For attention
  • To  see how far they can push (limits)
  • Responding to stress
  • Anger/tired
  • Fear
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Developmentally typical
  • Jealousy
  • To avoid consequences

If at all possible, it is best to ignore the behaviour that you don’t like; by doing so, you don’t reinforce it.  A child often doesn’t care if the attention they receive is positive or negative.  Some other behavioural strategies to try are:

  • Praise: Make sure those good behaviours are rewarded and praised.  It is very easy for us to get caught up in the negative and forget about the good things that our children do everyday.  Compliment your children everyday.
  • Be clear about expectations: Tell your child exactly what you expect them to do.  Be clear about what the consequence will be if they do the expected behaviour and what will happen if they do not.  Always follow through with the consequence- good or bad.  Consistency is vital to shaping behaviour.
  • Have one-on-one time with your child:  If you have a positive relationship with your child then that will help with feelings of happiness and with the development of good self-esteem.
  • Don’t over program:  Children need downtime in order to relax and unwind.  This will allow them the opportunity to decompress which will in turn help them to cope with everyday situations and those that are more stressful.
  • Communication:  Listening and validating feelings are important to dealing with misbehaviour.  Children want to be heard.  It’s easy for parents to not take children’s issues seriously, but these issues are a big deal to them.  If a child feels heard they will be more open to changing their behaviour.

Susan Lieberman is in private practice in Toronto as a family therapist and public speaker. For more information call (416) 512-6356.

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