Why Children Act Out And How To Handle It

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While we all understand children are people and have the right to express themselves as they wish, I know that sometimes there are things we all wish they wouldn’t do. Yelling, screaming, defying anything asked to do and destroying everything in sight just to name a few. The reasons why children act out can be physical, emotional or a combination of both.

Children grow physically and mentally. While the physical part is fairly easy (more food), the emotional and mental component can be tricky, requiring more thought and patience while they develop their emotional intelligence.

1. Handling New Situations

When your child comes into a new situation they may not have much to go on when it comes to handling it. If they haven’t effectively handled their situation in the past, it is unlikely they will now how to handle it now. You will most likely know this situation very well. Your child hasn’t received something they want and are now shouting and screaming over getting it.

Handling It

You need to teach them how to handle the situation by either showing them how they can get what they want (which many times isn’t actually what they are asking for), that they will get it later or that they can get something else that they will be equally satisfied with.

Lead by example and talk to them. It might take a few or even what may seem 100 times to help them learn how to handle their frustration appropriately but over time it does work.

I never said this part was going to be easy it does take time. There are also physiological and biological reasons why they surface their emotions without much foresight or process and express information the way they do. The brain is incredibly complex and it is constantly evolving as your child is growing activating and expanding during different steps along the way. This one you will just have to wait until they grow older.

2. Attention

Whether its new siblings or you have just been busy recently everyone wants attention in some form. A child needs love and you are one of its major sources. As such in order to get it they can act out so they can at least spend a little more time with you, negative or positive.

Handling It

Simply put, spend more time with your children. No amount of distractions is going to stop this one for long. Go on a walk, play with them, be present. They are only kids for such a short time.

3. Communication

As children grow so does their vocabulary. However it isn’t always as up to date as the emotions they experience. It is bound to happen where a situation has occurred and they don’t know how to communicate it properly. This is when you get a child acting out that you think is unnecessary or you are unsure why.

Handling It

This is where talking really helps. Talk with them about their emotions and the situation. Teach them new words or ways to express themselves. Show them what you do when it happens to you.

4. Independence

We tell our kids what to do from the moment they are born. We do it to teach them how to handle themselves, to keep out of harms way and to do what we or society expects them to do. As adults we don’t like be told what to do and as your child grows from a baby to teenager to adult, neither do they. As they experience the same situation again and again they will become confident they can do it themselves. They will attempt to assert their independence at various times as they feel they are capable of handling more situations on their own.

Handling It

Tell them the reason they need to do something, how you would handle a situation then ask them what they would do. If they are doing it for a reason and not just because they have been told, they will be doing things for themselves but from your guidance. We need to guide our children not tell them what to do. They are some things you can let them do so they can experience the consequences, others that you have to logically tell them why they can never do it if it is a life or death situation.

5. Food Sources / Additives

As I have seen in my middle child time and time again, that certain foods, especially with additives cause him to be more emotional than normal. Additives have a huge effect on behaviour and many studies have proven it.

Handling It

Go back in time and stop them from eating it. If you don’t have access to a time machine, you will want to cut back to a raw food, fresh fruit and vegetable snacks for as long as possible. Your child’s body will have to process out all of these additives but by ensuring no more are going in, they will process them quicker and maybe even more effectively if the body has nutritious food that helps support liver, kidney and other body functions. You will also find out that they sleep better at night.

6. Excess Energy

Sometimes they have just had too much high energy foods or their body just needs to get out and do something.

Handling It

Easy, get physical. If it is hard to get physical, a mentally stimulating game may also help. Your brain uses a large amount of glucose and activating it further will cause it to increase even further burning off that excess energy.

7. You’re The One Acting Out

May be it has just been years with kids at home, sleepless nights recently or something stressing you out. Sometimes it just all gets on top of us. For me I know have sometimes been the one acting out. Outbursts when my kids have only just come in asking for something, politely or just making a noise playing. If they are not actually doing anything wrong, step back from what you are doing.

Handling It

Work out what is stressing you out, apologize to your children, talk to them about what happened and then do something about it. No parent is perfect, we all need help every now and then, just be mindful of when you need it and when you need to look after yourself so that you can enjoy, teach and be present for your kids.


If you have any suggestions or information on why or how to handle children acting out in a gentle, positive way please do share in the comments below or on our Facebook or Google+ page.

  • Anonymous

    What a fabulous article! My gorgeous girl still has issues around new situations (as does her father) and it’s good to be reminded that 100 times or more isn’t unusual :)

    • http://www.KieraPedley.com Kiera Pedley

      Thanks Chizelle!
      we each bring up little individuals don’t we – our eldest is the most boisterous, outgoing, little man at home.
      Put him in a new social situation, and he’s a completely different child. It is, what it is :)

      And as parents, handling it with love, acceptance, and courage in our parenting convictions is such a gift to our wee ones!

  • Yumei Cai

    I also believe that punishment doesn’t change the behavior in the long term perspective!