Why Does My Child Act Like This?

It is completely normal, and even expected, that kids will act out at times, but especially when something is new.  This is why we often seen behavior issues during the first few months of a new class. This can be discouraging and even overwhelming for a parent.  Some of my favorite moments in class are when moms reach out to one another in love and support when this happens, because if we’re honest, we’ve ALL been there!

When we as adults stay calm and relaxed during these moments, and make an effort to not worry too much, we facilitate faster improvement in our children’s behavior.   Most things take time with kids, and sometimes kids can really dig their heels in, especially if the feel any pressure from us in the moment. Keeping a few things in mind can be helpful:

1-When it is something you really DON’T want to give your child a choice on, try saying “it’s time for _______” rather than “do you want to do ______”.  Smile and let the child know what is going to happen, and then proceed with the activity no matter how s/he acts, even if you have to do it without them. They will see that you are going on and pause to watch you.  Be sure your child sees you enjoying yourself in that moment.

2-Many kids struggle with some separation anxiety at first. This can manifest as them not wanting you to leave, being clingy, or just acting out in general.  It might be helpful to come in for a few minutes to soften this transition, but tell your child you will come in for a bit, but that you WILL leave and you also WILL come back.  Then DO NOT sneak out. This is very distressing to the child when they realize you are gone. Best to help get them interested and happy, and then try something like, “I see you are having so much fun!  I’ll be back in a while.” Saying good-bye helps the child know you meant what you said, and builds trust.  When you return time and again, s/he will learn to trust you and trust the routine.

3-Digging their heels in is what 2-3 year olds do best, and they know the distress this can cause you!  That distress can give them a sense of control which often perpetuates the behavior.  Your child’s behavior doesn’t have to affect your mood. It can be difficult and takes time and practice but you can get to a place where you can feel calm even when your child isn’t calm. Choosing a neutral response that is not a reaction to their behavior can help you maintain a calm feeling. 

Giving young children lots of opportunities to make choices (always between things YOU are OK with) can give them a HEALTHY sense of control and empowerment, which they DO need for their own growth and confidence. Boundaries also help children feel secure, so when it’s something you need to hold your ground on, be confident in those loving boundaries, knowing you are indeed looking out for what is best for your child.  However, if the child becomes violent or disrespectful to you, you have a right to take them out to a time out on the stairs, “if you do this again you will have to sit in a time out”. It is a challenge to discipline in public but some boundaries should not be crossed.  

Reach out to the teacher so that you are on the same page in terms of who will deal with issues.  Sometimes the teacher holds back when the parent is present, because they are choosing to respect your right to deal with it.  Our teachers also understand, however, that children will often respond better to correction by the teacher. This is not a negative reflection at all on your parenting!  Almost all children would rather be told to do or not to do something (or be invited) by the teacher over the parent, when there are others around. So let the teacher help out!  They are happy to do so!

4-If you want your child to enjoy class, then enjoy it yourself.  Going ALL-IN yourself makes this possible. Just dive in and participate, and don’t overthink it.  🙂 Soon your child will join in, but don’t be surprised if s/he decides to test you first.  Just keep on smiling and inviting, and be OK with lack of participation if that is your child’s response at first.  It WILL come if you hang in there and DON’T GIVE UP! Eventually, they will want to join in, and won’t be able to help themselves!  

Knowing as a parent where encouragement turns into pushing is also important. Encouraging with gentle touches or comments is good and helpful, but in the end they find success when they feel like it is their idea and not yours.

5-It is important for a child to know their voice is heard and respected. They gain confidence when they are able to use their voice. However, it is also important to learn how to use it respectfully and respect the voice of others as well. I have found when I listen to them in a respectful way, they listen to me in a respectful way.6-Step back and look at things from a different perspective.  Take time to watch your child play, looking at their play from their eyes. What are they doing? What are they choosing?  Why did they do it that way? When you watch them play and study their choices you learn a little more about their thoughts, personality, and how their brain is working. You can then assist them in learning in a better light and perspective.

6-Step back and look at things from a different perspective.  Take time to watch your child play, looking at their play from their eyes. What are they doing? What are they choosing?  Why did they do it that way? When you watch them play and study their choices you learn a little more about their thoughts, personality, and how their brain is working. You can then assist them in learning in a better light and perspective. 

7-Be patient with YOURSELF, and realize you need time to grow and learn, too.  Someone shared this with me once and I have found it helpful when I’m up against a problem I feel overpowered by …


You’ve hit a wall.   The problem is too big, too tall to climb over, to slick to get traction, too wide to go around. 

Do two things:  
1) Step back.  Then you will see that this is not a wall, it is the front side of a step – a step upward on your path to becoming a better you!  

But how will you get UP this super-tall step? 



2) GROW.  As you grow taller and stronger, that step will no longer be a wall, it will just be a step.  So work on growing and becoming stronger, and you will be able to move forward.

I think this applies to parenting more than anything!  No job is harder, and none of us really know how to do it right, at least not all the time.  Remember, you ARE doing a great job. You ARE a good parent. You ARE made up of the exact qualities your child needs in a parent. You are the perfect parent that your child needs and your child is the perfect child to teach you what you need to learn. It is a win-win! 

Anything worthwhile takes time and effort, and sometimes it feels like things are not getting better.  Kids help us learn patience, and part of that is learning to be patient and wait for the outcome we want.  Behavior can be trained, but it takes time and consistency to do so.  Avoiding a situation only prolongs the problem, but sometimes hitting it head on doesn’t work either.  Often a wiser approach works best. Step back, take a breath, and try again.  And remember, it will all work out. 😉