Nobody’s perfect, and even kids who usually behave well will still act up. Here’s why kids misbehave and why we should give more understanding and empathy.
For the past few nights, my toddler had been resisting his baths. Before, all it took was hollering, “Let’s take a bath!” and he’d scuttle to the tub. He couldn’t wait to brush his teeth, and knew to place his clothes in the hamper on autopilot.
But for the last few nights, he’s refused. No amount of prodding or encouragement could convince him to make his way to the bathroom. After all this time, why is he acting this way? I thought. I expected him to behave well just as he always has, and nothing less.
In a mom fail moment, I carried him to the bathroom despite his kicking and screaming. I gave him a hard time about not taking a bath. He should know better by now, I thought.
I had forgotten one important thing that would’ve avoided all this.
Why kids misbehave
Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson write in No-Drama Discipline:
“…[A] person’s capacity to handle situations well and make good decisions can really fluctuate according to the circumstances and the context of a given situation. Simply because we’re human, our capacity to handle ourselves well is not stable and constant.
…[I]t’s misguided to assume that just because his son could handle himself well in one moment, he’d always be able to do so. And that when his son didn’t manage his feelings and misbehaviors, it wasn’t evidence that he was spoiled and needed stricter discipline. Rather, he needed understanding and help, and through emotional connection and setting limits, the father could increase and expand his son’s capacity.”
I had forgotten that my kids aren’t perfect, no less than I am. Assuming they should behave perfectly all the time, I had forgotten all the other times my son had willingly climbed into his bath with no fuss.
How well we—including our children—behave changes day by day. We all have good and bad days, and we can’t always handle ourselves consistently. So, even though we’re usually good or behaved or disciplined, we’ll still have those off days.
And your child acting up when he’s usually well-behaved doesn’t call for more strictness. That he has misbehaved or acted of character doesn’t mean he’s bound to continue down that path. You don’t need to get on him for fear he’ll forever misbehave. He needs empathy and understanding instead.
Put it this way: You’re a pretty good parent, right? You’re usually on your A-game, and you do your best. But don’t you also have bad parenting days where you lose it?
The same goes for our kids, including my little boy. He’s usually well-behaved, not just with bath time but in general. The few times he acts up isn’t a call to get extra strict on him. Or to give him trouble for not behaving like he does. We all have those difficult days.
Sometimes we have unfair expectations of how much our kids can take. We assume they shouldn’t cry at drop off by now since they haven’t shed a tear in a while. They share their toys, then we wonder what’s the matter the few times they don’t.
Thing is, we all know better, but regardless, we’ll still have bad days. I know I do whenever I lose my temper or brush my kids aside. I’m a good parent—most of the time.
Their misbehavior still isn’t appropriate. Refusing to take a bath isn’t behavior we’d want to continue. Still, we need to cut them some slack. Be more forgiving, more understanding. And approach their defiance not as purposeful misbehavior but as a mishap we all have.
No one’s perfect, even us. Read these parenting tips to learn effective ways to deal with your kids:
- Parenting Tip: Be More Carefree
- These Are the Things Your Kids Will Remember About You
- On Choosing to Turn a Bad Parenting Day into a Good One
- What to Do When Your Child Says No to Everything
- 6 Ideas to Pull Yourself Out of a Bad Parenting Day
Your turn: What does your child do that gets you upset?