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8 Reasons Why Children Misbehave (With Solutions!)

8 Reasons Why Children Misbehave (With Solutions!)

One of the most common expressions parents can be heard saying is, “I don’t understand why he’s/she’s doing that”. There are eight, very common reasons why children misbehave. It is extremely useful for parents to know these because if they can pinpoint the root cause of the misbehavior, they can be more successful at reducing it.

Listed here are the eight most common reasons why children misbehave and a solution to help reduce or eliminate the problem:

1) They want to test whether caregivers will enforce rules.

Children’s main job is to figure out how their complex world works. In order to master the things they need to at each developmental level they will test their parents. They are literally trying to see where the boundaries are, or, if they exist at all. Although testing is frustrating for parents they should know that it is normal and that this is their chance to really make a difference in their child’s life.

How? By setting boundaries and limits and consistently following through on them. This way, their children will adopt positive values and gain self-esteem

2) They experience different sets of expectations between school and home.

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Consistency is hugely important in making a child feel safe and secure and able to have a comfortable understanding of the world and how it works. If they are receiving mixed messages from home and school they will feel uneasy inside and express this through more testing than normal and will feel an inner sense of stress.

The best thing a parent can do is learn a simple method to discipline and then have a conversation with their child’s teacher. During this conversation, the parents should explain their method and ask how the teacher handles situations. The goal is to try and use some of the same language at both the school and at home. With a consistent, clear message, children will rise to the expectation and be happier in the process.

3) They do not understand the rules, or are held to expectations that are beyond their developmental levels.
Sometimes, parent expectations go beyond their child’s abilities. Discipline and guidance strategies should always take into account the child’s developmental level. For example, it would be unreasonable to tell a 2 year old to clean up his room and expect that he will finish the job. At this age, children need a lot of support and guidance to do a job like this.

Reading books about what children can do at each age is helpful with this problem so that parents can know what is developmentally appropriate for them to expect of their child.

4) They want to assert themselves and their independence.
Children begin to show their desire for more independence at around age two. They start to want control over certain areas of their life so that they can feel capable and independent. It doesn’t take long for children to identify the areas they CAN control, much to the chagrin of parents. Situations like eating, sleeping, brushing teeth, and dressing are great examples of times when children recognize their power to get you upset and therefore make them feel in control.

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What is the solution? Give them loads of choice in their daily life so that they feel in control of their life in other, more positive ways. As well, it is key to learn a simple, loving method to discipline so that misbehavior are taken care of easily, without any emotion required. Without emotion, there is no reason for the child to want to rebel in order to gain control.

5) They feel ill, bored, hungry or sleepy.

When children’s basic needs aren’t met regularly each day they are always more likely to misbehave, cry, throw a tantrum, etc.
The solution to this is simple: have a routine where the child eats, has individual play time, parent and child play or interaction time and sleeps.

6) They lack accurate information and prior experience.

When children do something such as go to cross a road for the first time, they do not know that they are supposed to look both ways, so we all know that we must explain to them to look left and look right, etc. However, the same technique needs to be applied to discipline situations. Children will repeat a behavior over and over until they have accurate information as to what they should be doing instead and prior experience of the consequence if they continue the behavior.

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Using clear, concise language stating what they “need” to be doing rather than what they “shouldn’t” be doing is extremely important. Better to say, “Carry this carefully”, rather than, “Don’t drop this”. In other words, give them something to use as prior knowledge for next time.

7) They have been previously “rewarded” for their misbehavior with adult attention.
No parent would ever think of purposefully rewarding bad behavior, but it subtly happens quite often.

Remember, negative attention is still attention so if they misbehave and their parent either yells or spanks, they have just been rewarded.

If the child whines, cries or throws a tantrum and mom or dad eventually gives in to make them become quiet, they have just been rewarded.

The solution? Say what you expect without emotion and then follow through consistently if they continue the negative behavior. The two keys here are: no emotion and little talking.

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8) They copy the actions of their parents.

The best teacher of how to misbehave or act and speak inappropriately is by watching mom or dad misbehave or act and speak inappropriately. Remember, what children see and experience in the home is what their normal is. So, if they see mom and dad yelling, they will yell. If they get spanked, they will likely use hitting to express their anger or frustration. If they hear, “What?” instead of “Pardon?” that is what they will use. How can we expect any different?

Although not always simple, parents need to look at parenting as a life lesson in personal growth. I always say that children can make open and willing parents into the best human beings in the world because they have the opportunity to practice being their best selves every single day of the year. Looking at parenting this way makes it easier to catch oneself more often and start demonstrating good behavior by modeling it.

Image: MagnusRules

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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