Why Does My Child Act Out?

Reasons Your Child Is Acting Out and How You Can Help Them

As children develop, so do their personalities and behavior. They explore and adapt to the world around them, and soon your child will start behaving in ways that reflect their environment. While personality describes who you are, behavior describes what you do. There are various types of appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior at different stages of your child’s development, so determining why your child is acting out may involve looking at their environment and situation instead of their personality.

Part of why you may be questioning why your child is acting the way they are is because their calm personality isn’t a reflection of wild tantrums, or their witty nature doesn’t explain why they act so quiet or sad at times. Because of this difference between personality and behavior, finding the root of why they’re acting out shouldn’t have you asking, “What’s wrong with my child?” Finding out what’s causing your child’s outbursts is a matter of asking, “What’s happening in my child’s life right now?” By asking the right questions, you may be able to find the answer to why your child is acting out.

Child therapy at ELEOS Psychology Center is a way to teach your child the skills they need to express themselves appropriately in times of distress, frustration and excitement. Child therapy also involves the parents by teaching them how to have empathy for their child while working on these skills together. By giving your child the power they need to express themselves through acceptable behaviors and words, you can rest assured that you’ll have fewer tantrums to fear in the future.

Types of Behavior in Children and Knowing What’s Acceptable

The “normal” behavior for your child may be dramatically different than the behavior of another child who is the same age, especially if your child has a behavioral problem. There are a variety of factors to consider when asking yourself why your child is acting out, and you may have to weigh whether their behavior is warranted or not depending on the situation they’re in.

Understand that when your child is behaving in a particular way, they are communicating with you—especially when they are acting out. Children often don’t have the vocabulary to tell you what is bothering them, so their feelings are embodied by their behaviors. Your child may be throwing things because they want your attention, screaming in frustration because they can’t control their situation, or lashing out because they’re trying to tell you something but they don’t know the words to say it.

As the parent, you need to act with empathy when it comes to your child. This may even mean stepping back and considering what may be causing your child to act a certain way instead of impulsively reacting in a negative way, which could make the situation worse. By trying to empathize with your child, you’ll be able to better judge if the behavior they’re exhibiting is OK or not. If your child’s behavior is unlike their typical actions, there is a reason behind it.

As mentioned before, this is the time to ask, “What is causing my child to act this way?” instead of, “What is wrong with my child?” By asking the former question, you’ll be in a better position to explore all the options and empathize with them instead of getting frustrated with them. This can be hard at times, as you might be having a bad day, feel stressed or have your own worries. However, you have the emotional vocabulary and self-control to not let your kids’ behavior dictate your own, so try not to get swept up in the throes of your child’s tantrum. Before addressing your child’s disruptive actions, ensure that you are calm first—this will ensure you’ll be effective in helping your child when they’re acting out.

Once you are calm in the midst of bad behavior, you can start to assess the situation and what your kid might be trying to tell you. Your child may be jealous, hungry, sad, frustrated, tired—or all of the above. Instead of punishing your child or yelling at them for a temporary fix, show them support and guidance. This will show your child that anger isn’t the way to resolve a trying problem, and it will help them find positive ways to communicate their needs with your help. Once you get into the habit of acting calm and with respect when your child acts out, the more progress you’ll be able to see.

How to Help Your Child When They Are Acting Out

One way to help your child’s typical behavior, especially if they are acting out for prolonged periods of time, is to consider therapy. Child therapy can give your child the emotional vocabulary they need to put their feelings into words instead of negative behaviors. They can also learn how to have compassion for themselves, understanding, self-awareness and mindfulness—all behavioral skills that can be taught over time and with practice. What’s more is that child therapy at ELEOS Psychology Center of Minnesota involves the parent as they are the ones who can practice necessary skills with their child so that they can be used when your child starts acting out.

As the parent, remember: You aren’t responsible for your child’s behavior. But you are responsible for helping them back to a behavioral norm. Learning to respect your child and listen to their needs will eliminate many reasons children lash out, and by providing them with the right therapeutic tools, like a broader emotional vocabulary and self-compassion, they will be able to communicate their needs with you in a better way than tipping over the shopping cart at the grocery store and screaming at the top of their lungs.

Interested in what child therapy could do for your child? Let us help you and your child to fewer tantrums by teaching them the behavioral skills they need.