5 Clues to Help You Crack the Code on Kid Behavior

By: Jolene Roehlkepartain

It happened again. Your child did something that completely puzzled you—or made you want to scream! Why do kids act the way they do? Use the following five questions as guiding clues to help you crack the code on kid behavior. Get clues >

1. How old is your child? In the first 12 months of a child’s life, it’s remarkable how much kids change. There are other age periods when kids go through rapid changes as well, which affects their behavior. The Gesell Institute of Human Development has identified some ages where kids can be more difficult to parent. These include age 18 months, 2 ½ years, 3 ½ years, 4 ½ years, 5 ½ years, 7 years, 9 years, 11 years, and 13 years. Since the Gesell Institute on Human Developmental focuses on kids ages 14 and younger, don’t be fooled that parenting will get easier when your child turns 13. Researcher, Laurence Steinberg, pinpoints a number of tough years between the ages of 10 and 25 (yes 25!) as kids become older and more independent. The book, Why Do They Act That Way? by Dr. David Walsh is a good one for parents of teens to check out. It provides an easy-to-understand,.scientific explanation of what happens to the teenage brain from childhood to adolescence, revealing why teens act the way they do.

2. What is your child’s personality? Your child’s personality has a lot to do with the way he or she acts. Kids who have intense, strong personalities can be harder to parent than low-key, easygoing kids. Find out what personality your child has in the book, Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type—and Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger.

3. How does your personality interact with your child’s personality? Mix your personality with your child’s personality and what do you get? An explosion? A perfect fit? A good fit most of the time with some tension here and there? The Nurture by Nature book also includes helpful tips on how your personality and your child’s personality mix (or clash).

4. What are yours and your child’s stress levels? If anyone in your family is stressed, expect more relationship difficulties. If more than one of you is stressed, expect even more tension. Strive to lower the stress level instead of butting heads all the time. Checkout the website RaisingHappiness.com and sign up for their free e-newsletter, which is chock full of stress-busting tips for parents.

5. What is your child going through? Kids tend to act out what they’re going through, rather than talk about it. Listen closely to the way they’re acting. Instead of getting upset with them, make observations and ask questions. “I’ve noticed you’ve been angry a lot lately. What’s bothering you?” Make yourself approachable and warm so that kids are more open to talking rather than closing down.

It’s tempting to deal only with our child’s behavior that we see right in front of us: the slamming doors, the temper tantrum, or the swearing. Instead, strive to take a broader view. Yes, it’s important to teach kids how to act appropriately, but it’s also essential to discover why they’re acting the way they are. Once you figure that out, you can get at the core issue—which, in the long run—will help both you and your child a lot more.

1. David Walsh, Ph.D., Why Do They Act That Way? (New York: Free Press, 2004).

2. Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25, revised edition (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2011).

3. T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development, revised edition (New York: Delta, 1983).

4. Frances L. Ilg, M.D.; Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D.; and Sidney M. Baker, M.D.; Child Behavior: The Class Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development (New York: HarperPerennial, 1981).

5. Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type—and Become a Better Parent (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1997).

6. Ages and Stages, ParentFurther.

7. Image via dierken on Flick’r.

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