When we recognize kids’ unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental stages, or our own actions, we can respond proactively, and with compassion.
Here are 10 styles children may seem like theyre acting “naughty” but actually arent. And what mothers can do to help .
1. They can’t control their impulses.
Ever say to your child, “Dont throw that! ” and they throw it anyway?
Research suggests the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and dont fully matured until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a “long, slow process.”
A recent survey exposed many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true. For example, 56% of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to defy the desire to do something proscribed whereas most children dont master this ability until age 3 and a half or 4.
What parents can do: Reminding ourselves that kids can’t always manage impulses( because their brains aren’t fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.
2. They experience overstimulation.
We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sisters play in a single morning and inevitably find meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life.
Research suggests that 28% of Americans “always feel rushed” and 45% report having “no excess time.” Kim John Payne, author of “Simplicity Parenting, ” argues that children experience a “cumulative stress reaction” from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and playthings. He asserts that kids need tons of “down time” to balance their “up time.”
What parents can do: When we build in plenty of quiet day, playtime, and rest time, children’s behaviour often improves dramatically.
3. Kids’ physical needs affect their mood.
Ever been “hangry” or completely out of patience because you didn’t get enough sleep? Little children are affected tenfold by such “core conditions” of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick.
Kids’ ability to manage emotions and behavior is greatly decreased when they’re tired. Many parents also notice a sharp change in children behavior about an hour before meals, if they woke up in the night, or if they are coming down with an illness.
What parents can do: Kids cant always communicate or “help themselves” to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can. Help them through routines and prep for when that schedule might get thrown off.
4. They can’t tame their expression of big feelings.
As adults, weve been taught to tamed and conceal our big feelings, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or confusing from them. Kids cant do that yet.
What parents can do : Early-childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful impressions such as screaming, call, or crying. She suggests that parents “let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing children when they express powerful emotions.( Psst: “Jane the Virgin” performer Justin Baldoni has some tips-off on parenting through his daughter’s grocery store meltdown .)
5. Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement.
“Sit still! ” “Stop chasing your friend around the table! ” “Stop sword fighting with those pieces of cardboard! ” “Stop jumping off the sofa!
Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement. The need to spend time outside, ride motorcycles and scooters, do rough-and-tumble play, crawling under things, swaying from things, jump off things, and race around things.
What parents can do : Instead of calling small children “bad” when theyre acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.
6. They’re defiant.
Every 40 – and 50 -degree day resulted in an argument at one familys home. A first-grader insisted that it was warm enough to wear shorts while mom said the temperature called for gasps. Erik Eriksons model posits that toddlers try to do things for themselves and that preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own schemes.
What parents can do : Even though its vexing when a child pickings your tomatoes while theyre still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with eight freshly-washed sheets, theyre doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing trying to carry out their own schemes, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people. Understanding this and letting them try is key.
7. Sometimes even their best traits can trip them up.
It happens to all of us our biggest strengths often reflect our imperfections. Perhaps were incredibly focused, but can’t transition very easily. Maybe were intuitive and sensitive but take on other people negative moods like a sponge.
Kids are similar: They may be driven in school but have difficulty coping when they mess up( e.g ., hollering when they make a mistake ). They may be cautious and safe but resistant to new activities( e.g ., refusing to go to baseball practice ). They may live in the moment but aren’t that organized( e.g ., letting their bedroom floor become covered with toys ).
What parents can do : Recognizing when a child’s unwelcome behaviors are actually the flip side of their strengths just like ours can help us react with more understanding.
8. Kids have a fierce need for play.
Your kid paints her is confronted with yogurt, wants you to chase her and “catch her” when you’re trying to brush her teeth, or sets on daddy’s shoes instead of her own when you’re racing out the door. Some of kids’ seemingly “bad” behaviours are what John Gottman calls “bids” for you to play with them.
Kids love to be silly and goofy. They delight in the connection that comes from shared laughter and love the elements of novelty, surprise, and exhilaration.
What parents can do: Play often takes extra time and therefore get in the way of parents’ own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it’s not. When mothers build lots of playtime into the day, kids don’t need to beg for it so hard when you’re trying to get them out the door.
9. They are hyperaware and react to mothers moods.
Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it merely takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and pleasure, as well as sadness, anxiety, and rage, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realise it. Kids especially pick up on their parents moods. If we are emphasized, distracted, down, or always on the verge of frustrated, children imitate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, children model off that instead.
What parents can do : Check in with yourself before get frustrated with your child for feeling what they’re feeling. Their behavior could be modeled after your own tone and emotion.
10. They struggle to respond to inconsistent limits.
At one baseball game, you buy your child M& Ms. At the next, you say, “No, itll ruin your dinner, ” and your child hollers and squeaks. One night you read your kids five books, but the next you insist you only have time to read one, and they implore for more. One night you ask your child, “What do you want for dinner? ” and the next night “theyre saying”, “We’re having lasagna, you can’t have anything different, ” and your children protest the incongruence.
When mothers are inconsistent with restrictions, it naturally defines off kids annoyance and invites squeaking, screaming, or screaming.
What parents can do : Just like adults, kids want( and require) to know what to expect. Any effort toward being 100% consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will severely improve childrens behavior. This story first appeared on Psychology Today and is reprinted here with permission .
Read more: www.upworthy.com