Puzzled Parents: Dealing with Weird Kid Behavior

By: Tricia Cornell

Kids are weird. At least, mine are. My son, age 7, and his best pal love to sing at the top of their lungs, “Mango! Mango! Is dancing on yogurt! Mango! Mango! Is dancing on yogurt!” No, you’ve never heard it before. You wouldn’t recognize the tune, either. But after five minutes of this ditty (usually in the car) you’ll wonder, like I do, what on earth makes this so amusing. Like I said, weird. Like most kids, mine tell the same knock-knock jokes over and over again. They seize on puns and won’t let them go. And then there’s the burping, the farting, the giggling, the baby talk, the bizarre clothes preferences, the strange food rituals, the abrupt changes in mood, and the inability to keep that finger out of that nose. Does any of this sound familiar? Read more >

After nine short years in this parenting game, I think I’ve finally figured it out: Kids aren’t like you and me because they aren’t adults. I know! This realization changed my parenting life. So much of the behavior I was correcting — or just gritting my teeth to endure — is just part of being a kid.

Here are some tips for dealing with the beloved, bizarre creatures we call our children. And remember: They may be putting up with our quirks some day. In fact, they already are.

1. Set expectations for public behavior. Kids need to know that one level of goofiness is appropriate around their friends; another around family and close adults; and yet another out in public. It is reasonable to expect a level of decorum in public situations. Talk to kids about how respect includes knowing which behaviors others might find annoying. Fart jokes are a good place to start.

2. Help break bad habits. Sometimes quirks like hair twirling, nail biting, nose picking, burping, and whistling become habits without kids even realizing it. To help kids break bad habits, you first have to help them notice what they’re doing. Gently point out each incident. Then talk about the some of the physical and social effects their habit might have and help them set goals for stopping. Breaking habits is hard; praise your child’s hard work and notice her successes.

3. Pick your battles. “Grown-ups don’t always think kid jokes are funny,” I heard my daughter tell my son. She then added, “Just like we really don’t think their jokes are funny. Because they’re not.” That put it in perspective for me. Excessive knock-knock jokes at the dinner table now get a pass — until they interrupt someone else who wants to talk. But when anyone starts singing loudly about mangoes when I’m trying to talk or think, I ask them to take it outside.

4. Make room for goofiness. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in monitoring and correcting our kids’ behavior that we forget to have fun. Dig way back in your childhood and maybe you can remember why, “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” really is so funny! And I know some adults who still laugh at fart jokes with their kids.

5. Watch for warning signs. Most of the time a quirk is just a quirk. But, occasionally, quirks can be signs of more serious issues. Hair twirling, for example, is a pretty common habit among young girls, but on rare occasions it is a sign of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. When kids have extreme difficulty reading social cues, it may be time for an evaluation. In general, when habits and quirks lead to physical or social pain, it’s time to take action. Trust your gut and talk to your pediatrician when something doesn’t feel quite right.

Tell Us: Are your kids “weird”? What are some of their quirks?

1. KidsHealth.org
2. National Institute of Mental Health online.
3. Dr. David Walsh online.
4. Image via David Dennis Photos on Flick’r.


I think all children have their weird moments; they are just kids, after all. You gave some excellent advice. Having prior discussions concerning appropriate public behavior, and picking your battles are so important. Having fun with your child and enjoying each ones uniqueness is what makes a family special. A sense of humor, as long as it’s at nobody’s expense, can create warm family memories. Readers may want to view “The 8 L’s of Parenting” by clicking below:

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