Common ways kids act out and how to react
This we all know to be true: kids exhibit reactions at all ages. Even the sweetest, most polite kids can turn on a dime and have a meltdown. Kids are learning to deal with their emotions and understand how to react when they are tired, upset, overwhelmed, or plain angry. At other times, kids simply are looking for attention. Children act out in many ways. How you react can encourage or squash the frequency of the behavior.
Aggressor – Out of nowhere, your usually calm and happy child turns mean and aggressive. It can be a result of a major change in his or her life or a need for more defined boundaries. It’s best to react calmly. Don’t fuel the fire. Acknowledge how they feel, empathize and maintain a steady confidence. Empathizing with your child does not equate to forgiving the behavior. Be firm in rules and expectations and calm in delivery.
Storyteller (i.e. fibber) – Tall tales usually serve one of two purposes: telling about a fantasy/wish or getting out of trouble. Kids will tell a white lie to stay up later, to watch a show they want to see, or ward off a consequence for something they know they shouldn’t have done. When you notice the fib, acknowledge it, stay firm and remain very matter-of-fact. “That wall does look like a great canvas, but we both know coloring on it is against the rules.” Kids will soon learn that avoiding the truth doesn’t prevent the consequence.
Drama queen (or king) – Overacting in situations can come from strong emotion, need for attention, or even pure boredom. Whining can fall under this category too. Regardless of how you feel, acknowledge their presence but don’t react. Tell your child to please use a kind voice. Walking away may cause a bigger scene. Look your child in the eye and tell them you need to understand them in order to help.
The show boater – Most kids love the spotlight. They do whatever it takes to bring the room’s focus to them. They will show off a talent or be the standup comedian. Certain ages will invoke silly, funny, and instigative behavior. Talk to your kids about how it may appear. Is the behavior boastful or hurtful? Help your kids understand how others may perceive their antics. Over time, kids will learn when it’s the right time or place to rally the room.
Instigator or prankster – Kids instigate or play pranks to get a reaction or a good laugh. The problem is, not everyone finds the same joke funny. Parents need to help kids learn empathy. How will the other child feel? Who will find the act funny? Will it hurt feelings? Ask these questions when your child instigates behaviors that may be hurtful to others. If their actions seem to earn laughter without being at another person’s expense, sit back and observe. Some jokes may be pure fun with no ill intent.
Other behaviors can surface as a result of changes in life, insecurity, need for attention, or frustration. Children want attention. They also want to learn to be independent. Set boundaries, listen to what your children are saying, and remain consistent when guiding good choices. Lastly, remember, children learn from YOU. Model the reactions you want your kids to show.
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