Why Children Misbehave

Many parents wonder why their child or children act the way they do at times. Children are trying to figure out how the world works as well as how they are supposed to act. Many times, they do test their parents to learn exactly just how much they can get away with before they upset a parent. This does not necessarily mean that they are out of control or have a problem, but are trying to learn the world around them.

Of course, as parents, we all have been pushed to the point of wanting to pull out our hair. However, if we as parents, learn the reasons behind the behavior, we can actually change the outcome and have enjoyed a more peaceful home or outing.

The one thing that must be remembered is that no matter where your child is acting out, it is normal. Many times, children are just trying their independence or in some cases, there may be a reason behind the behavior that the child does not know how to express.

Most parents do not know the stages of child development or how to respond in a positive manner when their children act inappropriately. Punishment is often the first choice for parents, which may not be the correct way to respond. The first child is often the one that receives more punishment and then as we become older, we have discovered more about way children communicate and the punishments become less and less for each child after the first.

Let's look at the main reasons children behave and hopefully learn how to respond in a better way to help our children grow and mature.

Needs are Not Meet

Many times children are just acting out as they want your attention as they are bored, hungry, or even scared. The best way to respond is to know what the problem is by asking them if they are hungry, etc... If they are bored at an event, you need to explain that the event will be over and then you will go home, park, etc..., but that their behavior is not appropriate and will not be tolerated. State what will happen if the behavior continues and be firm. Do not use violence or yelling. An example could be that we will go to a restaurant to eat after the store, event, or whatever, but if their behavior continues you will not to the restaurant.

Do not Understand What is Expected

Young children may not understand the way in which you want them to behave. You may ask that they play in their room while someone is visiting, but they become very loud. They are following your rules by playing in their room, but they are so loud that it is distracting. To your child, according to their age, may not understand that they need to be quieter. You must help the child understand what is expected such as using an inside voice.

Are Afraid

You may not realize it, but when children are scared they will act out the worst. You may be corporal punishment to control your child which will only cause them to be afraid. This will, in fact, cause them to act out as a protection mechanism. You need to learn why they are acting out and then learn to use the proper wording to reassure them instead of scaring them. If you are using spanking as a punishment, they will not learn how to control a situation with a bully in school. Along these lines, if your child is being bullied at school, you will see your child act out at home. Helping them learn how to deal with a bully instead of spanking will give you more peace at home.

Low Self Esteem

Children need more than food to eat and a roof over their heads to grow and mature properly. Too many times, parents are not supportive of the emotional needs of their children, they just believe the children know they are loved or they want their children to be tough. Children need encouragement, love, and support. Children will act out if they do not like themselves. If a parent only points out the inappropriate behavior, a child will begin to believe they are bad and worthless. Praising your child for even the smallest of accomplishments will go a long way.

Do What They See

A child learns from their parents. If you argue with one another, yell at the children, or even hit them, they believe this is the right behavior. The same goes for using bad language. You have to set the right example for them to follow. If you yell at your child, do not be surprised if he or she yells back at you. They are only doing what they see.


If you are not sure how to work with your child with the various stages of their life or you are not sure that you are approaching the issues correctly, it would be in your best interest to talk with a Fayetteville counselor that has experience working with children.