It’s fair to say that no child wants to be labeled as a “bad kid”, and many times bad behavior is outgrown or changed with proper guidance. With all the different parenting techniques, it can get confusing.

Some parents are overwhelmed, overprotective, or overly dramatic when it comes to their reaction to kid behaviors. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our responses are not only teaching right from wrong, but also personality traits that can affect kids into adulthood.

The trick is learning what warrants what warrants discipline, serious intervention, or just a little understanding. Why? Psychologists are discussing how some behaviors we deem as bad really aren’t bad at all.

Instead, they are the result of too much of something, not enough of another, or an exercise in growth. Here’s a list of not-so-right kid behaviors that might not be so wrong.

  1. Being Brutally Honest

    There’s a difference between being a rude, bratty jerk and being terribly honest. Blurting out a direct take on Mrs. Beaman’s breath may come at an inappropriate time and sound impolite, but don’t we teach our kids to be honest? Some enjoy telling the truth more than others, and yes, it can be embarrassing.

    Do curb and explain how and when to keep mum. At times, being so frank and blunt is a way for kids to speak their minds. At others, they should keep things to themselves. But when should you worry? When your child doesn’t mind hurting someone’s feelings and gets a kick out of being a bully.

  2. Not Sharing

    Come on, you know that you don’t always feel like sharing your stuff, so why expect your kid to? The key is balance. If someone demands your child to share or give up a toy, snack, or other object, saying “no” can teach them to stand up for themselves. Sharing and taking turns is a behavior that should be mutually respectful.

  3. Rejecting People

    Kids don’t always feel like hugging or hanging out with everyone. Sometimes they shun smooches from you or a grandparent, or don’t feel like playing with Suzie, Laila, and Bryan. That’s okay. Sometimes kids want to play alone, or they don’t feel comfortable with too many people in their play or personal space.

    Trying to force kids to like someone or play with someone to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings could be sending the message that their own feelings aren’t valued. Teach them to say “no thank you” or “another time” in a polite way.

  4. Being Impulsive

    Another normal response to temptation is impulsive behavior. This is especially true for toddlers and young children whose brains are still growing. They can’t help it. Touching things in the store? Eating dirt?

    It’s a combination of curiosity and desire taking over. Just know that eventually, with your guidance, they’ll learn to have more self-control.

  5. Play and Make Mischief All the Time

    Remember that time your toddler got into your makeup? It’s not fun to clean up the aftermath but kids LOVE being silly and they LOVE constant movement. Find a way to connect with them during play and give them an outlet for all of that energy. It’s just a kid being a kid.

  6. Acting Out Emotionally

    You’re not alone if you can’t stand tantrums, object-throwing, or foot-stomping. But for little ones, this is normal when their little brains don’t know how to express or communicate fully. They yell, cry, and pout when they’re bored, hungry, upset, or disappointed. As parents, we have to learn to read cues and sometimes ride it out. Talk to your child so you can figure out what the cause of their outburst is.

  7. Defiance

    We’d love for children to learn how to be independent – within reason. Challenging you through bargaining, arguing or an assertion of their wills is a normal part of growing up. Children want to make their own decisions and test their own abilities.

    Reinforce what being respectful means but encourage them to speak up, try new things, and to trust your input. They can make some age-appropriate choices with limits. It’s all in how you spin it.

  8. Response to Inconsistency

    This is a big one: are you consistent? When your child fights you at bedtime, could it be because you let her stay up after 9 p.m. for the past week? He stayed in the pool 20 minutes longer yesterday, but is spazzing out because today that’s not the case. It’s on you.

    Kids actually appreciate a routine and have expectations based on what they’re used to doing. They can flip out on you and cry, whine, or fight if that routine is upended or constantly changes. In this case, learn to balance your flexibility with consistency.

  9. Wild Play

    Rough-housing, climbing trees, and doing pop-a-wheelies drive a lot of helicopter parents crazy. But the same thrills can come from riding rollercoasters and playing sports.

    Unintentional injuries may happen, but psychologists point out that “daredevil” activities can help produce kids who don’t have issues with confidence, anxiety, phobias, or risk.

    They also learn that a swollen knee is not the end of the world. We’re not saying let them run free to jump off of buildings or to hurt friends, but let them skate, spin, and tumble.

Mayhem, destruction, and disrespect is not the name of the game here. While you may feel like freaking out or issuing punishment for every infraction, just know that you’re not the only parent going through it.

If you notice your child’s behavior is way out of control or he hasn’t outgrown some of these antics, then discuss it with his pediatrician.

Do you wig out about common child behaviors? Have you or someone else labeled your child as being a habitual “naughty list” offender?


Psychology Today