Home Psychology 8 Ways Children Appear To Be Misbehaving But Actually Aren’t

8 Ways Children Appear To Be Misbehaving But Actually Aren’t


Following are 8 ways children may appear like they are misbehaving, but actually aren’t. When we recognize children’s naughty behaviors as a healthy and normal phase of their development and as reactions to our own actions or environmental conditions, this lets us respond to their “bad” behaviors proactively and in a compassionate and constructive way.  

When we see children’s naughty behaviors through a more thoughtful lens, this lets us understand that misbehavior is not an indication of bad parenting or a sign that your kid is naughty.

Here are 8 of the most common reasons why children may appear to be misbehaving but actually aren’t:

1. Overstimulation.

When we go shopping with our children or when we take them to the park or their friends’ birthday parties, we often see hyperactivity, meltdowns, or resistance.

Due to overstimulation,  hectic schedules, and exhaustion, which are all hallmarks of 21st-century family life, kids experience cumulative stress. That’s the reason why when a child displays a naughty behavior while playing with his/her friends, this may actually be their way of coping with their cumulative stress.

2. Core conditions.

Have you ever been angry or out of patience because you were ravenously hungry or you only slept for 4 hours? Well, small children are tenfold affected by this kind of “core conditions”  of being thirsty, hungry, exhausted, or ill.

Children’s ability to manage behavior and emotions is significantly reduced when they are hungry or tired. That’s why a lot of parents spot a sudden change in kids’ behavior approximately an hour before meals, if they’re going down with a cold, or if they woke up in the middle of the night.

3. Children can’t always control their impulses.

How many times have you told your child, “Don’t do that!” and they do it anyway? Well, the reason why kids behave this way is not always disobedience.

The thing is that the brain regions which are important to self-control are immature at birth and they mature slowly throughout childhood. This explains why two or three-year-old kids aren’t always able to resist the urge to do something they’re not allowed to.

4. Children have a developmental need for a lot of movement.

How many times have you said to your kid, “Stop chasing the dog around the house!” “Can’t you just sit still while you’re eating?” “Stop jumping on the bed!”

Children have a great need to play, jump off things, crawl around the house, run around things, and ride scooters and bicycles. So, instead of calling a kid “naughty” when they are doing rough and tumble play, it may be better to take them to the playground.

5. Expression of powerful feelings.

As grown-ups, we have been taught to distract from or hide our powerful emotions. But, children are not able to do that yet. They can’t ignore, hide, or suppress big feelings, such as crying, yelling, or screaming.

That’s why when a child shows powerful emotions, their parents shouldn’t react angrily to or punish them. They should let feelings be instead.

6. Having strengths which trip them up.

Not only kids but adults, too, have strengths which can trip us up. Perhaps we are highly intuitive, but absorb other people’s negative feelings and energy like a sponge.

Well, children are similar. A child may be extremely cautious, but resistant to doing new things, e.g. refusing to take swimming lessons. A child may have good grades at school but have trouble coping when they make a mistake, e.g. shouting when they mess up.

Recognizing when a kid’s bad behaviors are actually the flip side of his/her strengths can help you react in a gentler, more compassionate way and with more understanding to them.

7. Children are developmentally-wired to become independent.

Yes, it can be irritating when a kid claims that it’s warm enough outside to wear shorts when it’s actually not, or when they cut their own hair, or when they make a fort with piles of clothes, but they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing – making their own decisions, making their own plans and carrying them out, and gaining independence.

8. Children absorb and emulate their parents’ moods.

You don’t need to be an empath so as to pick up on other people’s moods.  And children especially absorb and emulate their parents’ feelings and energy. So, whether you are distracted, anxious, stressed, afraid, angry, or sad, children pick up on these moods.