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Parenting

10 ways kids appear to be acting naughty but actually aren't

Many of kids' so-called 'bad' behaviors are actually normal developmental acts of growing up.

10 ways kids appear to be acting naughty but actually aren't
Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash
two toddler pillow fighting

When we recognize kids' unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions, we can respond proactively, and with compassion.

Here are 10 ways kids may seem like they're acting "naughty" but really aren't. And what parents can do to help.


1. They can't control their impulses.

Ever say to your kid, "Don't throw that!" and they throw it anyway?

Research suggests the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don't fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a "long, slow process."

A recent survey revealed many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true. For example, 56% of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden whereas most children don't master this skill until age 3 and a half or 4.

What parents can do: Reminding ourselves that kids can't always manage impulses (because their brains aren't fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.


2. They experience overstimulation.

We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sister's play in a single morning and inevitably see meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life.

Research suggests that 28% of Americans "always feel rushed" and 45% report having "no excess time." Kim John Payne, author of "Simplicity Parenting," argues that children experience a "cumulative stress reaction" from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys. He asserts that kids need tons of "down time" to balance their "up time."

What parents can do: When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children's behavior often improves dramatically.

3. Kids' physical needs affect their mood.

Ever been "hangry" or completely out of patience because you didn't get enough sleep? Little kids are affected tenfold by such "core conditions" of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick.

Kids' ability to manage emotions and behavior is greatly diminished when they're tired. Many parents also notice a sharp change in children's behavior about an hour before meals, if they woke up in the night, or if they are coming down with an illness.

What parents can do: Kids can't always communicate or "help themselves" to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can. Help them through routines and prep for when that schedule might get thrown off.

woman hugging boy on her lapPhoto by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

4. They can't tame their expression of big feelings.

As adults, we've been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can't do that yet.

What parents can do: Early-childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents "let feelings be" by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions. (Psst: "Jane the Virgin" actor Justin Baldoni has some tips on parenting through his daughter's grocery store meltdown.)

5. Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement.

"Sit still!" "Stop chasing your brother around the table!" "Stop sword fighting with those pieces of cardboard!" "Stop jumping off the couch!"

Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement. The need to spend time outside, ride bikes and scooters, do rough-and-tumble play, crawl under things, swing from things, jump off things, and race around things.

What parents can do: Instead of calling a child "bad" when they're acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.

a young boy running through a sprinkle of waterPhoto by MI PHAM on Unsplash

6. They're defiant.

Every 40- and 50-degree day resulted in an argument at one family's home. A first-grader insisted that it was warm enough to wear shorts while mom said the temperature called for pants. Erik Erikson's model posits that toddlers try to do things for themselves and that preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own plans.

What parents can do: Even though it's annoying when a child picks your tomatoes while they're still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with eight freshly-washed sheets, they're doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing — trying to carry out their own plans, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people. Understanding this and letting them try is key.

7. Sometimes even their best traits can trip them up.

It happens to all of us — our biggest strengths often reflect our weaknesses. Maybe we're incredibly focused, but can't transition very easily. Maybe we're intuitive and sensitive but take on other people's negative moods like a sponge.

Kids are similar: They may be driven in school but have difficulty coping when they mess up (e.g., yelling when they make a mistake). They may be cautious and safe but resistant to new activities (e.g., refusing to go to baseball practice). They may live in the moment but aren't that organized (e.g., letting their bedroom floor become covered with toys).

What parents can do: Recognizing when a child's unwelcome behaviors are really the flip side of their strengths — just like ours — can help us react with more understanding.

8. Kids have a fierce need for play.

Your kid paints her face with yogurt, wants you to chase her and "catch her" when you're trying to brush her teeth, or puts on daddy's shoes instead of her own when you're racing out the door. Some of kids' seemingly "bad" behaviors are what John Gottman calls "bids" for you to play with them.

Kids love to be silly and goofy. They delight in the connection that comes from shared laughter and love the elements of novelty, surprise, and excitement.

What parents can do: Play often takes extra time and therefore gets in the way of parents' own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it's not. When parents build lots of playtime into the day, kids don't need to beg for it so hard when you're trying to get them out the door.

9. They are hyperaware and react to parents' moods.

Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it. Kids especially pick up on their parents' moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always on the verge of frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.

What parents can do: Check in with yourself before getting frustrated with your child for feeling what they're feeling. Their behavior could be modeled after your own tone and emotion.

10. They struggle to respond to inconsistent limits.

At one baseball game, you buy your kid M&Ms. At the next, you say, "No, it'll ruin your dinner," and your kid screams and whines. One night you read your kids five books, but the next you insist you only have time to read one, and they beg for more. One night you ask your child, "What do you want for dinner?" and the next night you say, "We're having lasagna, you can't have anything different," and your kids protest the incongruence.

When parents are inconsistent with limits, it naturally sets off kids' frustration and invites whining, crying, or yelling.

What parents can do: Just like adults, kids want (and need) to know what to expect. Any effort toward being 100% consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will seriously improve children's behavior.


This story first appeared on Psychology Today and was reprinted here 7.20.21 with permission.

Sandhya with other members at a home meet-up

South Asian women across the country are finding social support in a thriving Facebook group devoted to them.

The Little Brown Diary has over 40,000 members, primarily between the ages of 20 and 40, and 100 subgroups devoted to niche topics. Some of these include mental health, entrepreneurship, career advice, and more.

Members of the group can discuss their experiences as South Asians, inner conflicts they face, and even bond over their favorite hobbies. The Facebook group has become a safe place for many of its members to find support in the most transformative periods of their lives. These include:

  • Supporting women in domestic violence and sexual assault circumstances
  • Sharing mental health and suicide resources
  • Connecting members to support each other through grief and loss
  • Helping members find the strength to get a divorce or defend their decision to be childfree
  • Helping them navigate career changes
  • Helping to find friends in a new city
  • Finding a community of other neurodivergent people in their shoes

“I joined the online community because I was looking for that sense of belonging and connection with others who shared similar experiences and backgrounds,” expressed Sandhya Simhan, one of the group admins.

“At the time, I was pregnant and eager to find other desi moms who could offer support, advice, and friendship during this significant life transition,” she says.

Another group admin, Henna Wadhwa, who works in Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., even uses the group to inspire new areas of research, including a study on ethnic-racial identity at work.

“I was surprised and excited for a group that brought together South Asian/brown women. I wanted to meet other women with similar research interests and who wanted to conduct academic research on South Asian American women,” Wadhwa says.


While social media isn’t always the best place to spend our time, studies show that the sense of community people get from joining online groups can be valuable to our mental health.

“The presence of LBD has allowed so many South Asian women to truly feel safe in their identity. The community we have built encourages each person to authentically and freely be themselves. It is a powerful sight to witness these South Asian women be vulnerable, break barriers, and support each other in their journeys,” says Wadhwa.

Hena and Neesha

According to an article in Psychology Today, a study on college students looked at whether social media could serve as a source of social support in times of stress. Turns out, these students were more likely to turn to their social media network rather than parents or mental health professionals for connection. The anonymity of virtual communities was also seen as appealing to those experiencing depression.

“The social support received in the online group promotes a sense of well-being and was associated with positive relationships and personal growth,” the article states.

This is why finding a community of like-minded individuals online can have such a positive impact in your life.

“There are almost half a million women in our target audience (millennial South Asians in North America) and about 10% of them are part of LBD. It’s been a game-changer for our community. LBD is all about embracing your true self and living your most authentic life. It's amazing to see how the members support, relate, learn, and lift each other,” says Wadhwa and Simhan.

Pop Culture

'Britain's Got Talent' contestant blew Simon Cowell away singing a song he 'hates'

Her heartfelt version of "Tomorrow" brought people to tears—and completely changed Simon's tune.

Sydnie Christmas nailed her rendition of "Tomorrow" from "Annie"

Contestants on "Britain's Got Talent" (as well as "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent") have long feared Simon Cowell's judgment, so imagine auditioning with a song choice that automatically brings out his sour side.

That's what contestant Sydnie Christmas did when she chose to sing "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie," which is Simon Cowell's least favorite song. But much to everyone's surprise, she totally blew him away with her beautiful soulful rendition, causing him to change his tune.

Before performing, Christmas bounded onto the stage with her genuine smile and spunky energy, which endeared her to the judges and audience immediately. She even cracked a joke about her middle name being "Mary" (Sydnie Mary Christmas would be quite the name choice) and got everyone laughing with her.


However, when she announced she'd be singing "Tomorrow," Cowell winced and the other judges groaned.

"That is Simon's worst song," warned judge Amanda Holden.

But when Christmas, who works as a receptionist at a gym, began to sing, it soon became clear that this wasn't an ordinary rendition of the musical classic. Soulful, heartfelt, sad but hopeful, she built the song up bit by bit, bringing the audience along with her on an emotional ride.

Watch:

Not only did she get the coveted Golden Buzzer, but she also managed to get Simon Cowell to say he now loves the song he said he'd hated just minutes before. Viewers loved it, too.

"That was the first time I could take this song serious. Before today I hated it, too," wrote one person.

"When they say you have to make the song your own, she did just that. I have never heard a better version," wrote another.

"Absolutely beautiful; love how the word “tomorrow” always sounded unique EVERY TIME! Listened over and over…" added another.

"I've heard that song a million times and she REALLY got the poignancy of it," shared another. "It is a sad song, but a song of hope, and it is hard to walk that line and she KILLED IT. It's not just about her voice, it is how she sold that song."

She even pulled in people from various walks of life, moving them with her performance:

"I'm a 60 year old highway worker. Just got off work and my wife sent this to me. What I'm trying to figure out is who's been cutting onions in my vehicle? Seriously, teared me up. This took me COMPLETELY off guard and I am so delighted to have experienced this diamond!"

"41 year old hip hop head here and never did I think I would be touched like this. The sound of suffering with a glimmer of hope in the sound. Who is cutting onions at this time."

"I’m a 60 year old builder sitting in my van having lunch. I just watched this. The guys in the next van are taking the P coz I’m crying my eyes out! Brilliant!"

As someone named Annie, I've had "Tomorrow" sung to me countless times over the years, so I shared Simon Cowell's initial grimace upon hearing what she was going to sing. But I too was moved by Christmas's performance and gained a whole new appreciation for the song after her gorgeous rendition. Not an easy feat. What a delightful surprise for us all.

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

She was born for this.

Musical theater isn’t exactly for the hobbyist singer in general, but certain showtunes require so much skill that even the greats would shy away from them. “Defying Gravity,” from lyricist Stephen Schwartz and librettist Winnie Holzman’s “Wicked,” certainly falls into that category.

The iconic song, made famous by Idina Menzel, is a rollercoaster of key changes, dynamic shifts in tempo and volume, agile riffs and of course, that thrilling high belt at the end…all while being suspended in the air, mind you. It’s something that even the best of the best have to train for years to be able to do.

And yet, an 11-year-old made it look effortless.


Back in May of 2023, Olivia Lynes stepped onto the stage for “Britain’s Got Talent,” sporting a little pink dress with ruby red shoes.

As she tells the judges “hellooooo” in the most adorable accent ever, you’d never get the sense that this sweet, polite young girl was mere seconds away from blowing the roof off the place.

But then she opens her mouth to sing, leaving everybody floored from the very first note.

Watch:

Holy moly, was that incredible, or was that incredible?

Olivia would go on to channel Menzel a few more times, singing “Let It Go”and “Into The Unknown” from Disney’s “Frozen” and “Frozen 2,” rightfully getting dubbed “the new, undisputed Disney princess” by judge Bruno Tonioli.

As if Olivia weren’t enough living proof, science does tell us that it is entirely possible to be born a gifted singer. After all, our anatomy plays a huge role in our singing abilities—facial structure, vocal folds, nasal cavities, etc. And our genetics influence our anatomy. So it makes sense that some people come into this world with inherent advantages.

However, just like with any athletic endeavor (which singing most certainly is) our skill level can improve with practice and training. Still, we can marvel at those natural born Olympians who seem fated for greatness.

Five women hold their bellies in a baby shower photo.

Getting married and having a child is a huge life change and so when a group of friends goes through the same experience together, it’s a great way to bond. Unfortunately, for some people, these changes on the domestic front can take over their lives and become their entire personality.

People who are single and aren’t looking to have kids any time soon can have a hard time relating to their friends who are married with children because they have less in common. Further, when you don’t have children, it can be a little tedious to hear people talk all day about lactation, sleep schedules and spitting up.

These topics can be boring to people who have children, too.


A Redditor who goes by Remarkable_Lake410, who we’ll call RL for brevity’s sake, recently ran into this problem with her friends. Instead of feigning interest in married mom life, she decided to be honest with them about why she didn’t want to join them on a trip.

child-free woman, Reddit, writing post

A woman writing a post on Reddit.

via Magnet.me/Unsplash

“I (27F) have a group of female friends (8 of us). We have been friends for over a decade, since school. Now, we don’t live in the same place, but we meet up a couple of times a year for a weekend on an Airbnb. This used to be a weekend of good food, drinks, hot tub, etc.” she wrote on the AITH forum.

“Around five of my friends are either married or in very long-term relationships. Of these five, two either have a baby or are pregnant. I will be seeing all of my friends this year for various wedding, friend and baby events. I have been invited to this year's girls' trip, but I have said I can’t come. I didn’t originally provide a reason,” she continued.

But a friend pushed her to find out why she didn’t want to go on the trip and she was honest: She didn’t want to be stuck constantly hearing about babies, marriage and weddings on a trip that was going to cost a significant amount of money.

“[Last time], I listened to one of my friends talk about her breastfeeding plans, with vengeance, for over an hour. She is not pregnant or trying. Truthfully, it’s boring, and it feels dismissive,” RL wrote. It’s also a really expensive way to feel bad about myself.”

When her friend heard her reason, she was “really hurt,” and it felt like RL didn’t care about her and her other friends. So, RL asked the Reddit forum if she was in the wrong for being honest and skipping a trip that would be all about marriage and babies.

The post received over 4,000 responses that were overwhelmingly supportive for RL.

"On the surface, this seems like it’s just about engagements, weddings and babies. You go out of your way to be constantly supportive of them. However they don’t reciprocate that for you. They can’t relate to anything or want to relate to anything outside of their lives. It would sort of be like if you just won an award, but all they talked about was the pie they just ate that morning," Dependant_praline_93 wrote in the most popular comment.

"We all change as we get older. You naturally drift apart from some friends, especially if their lifestyle changes dramatically (think married with children, in particular). I wouldn't want to spend a lot of money to spend 3 days with a group that had such dis-similar interests. And I don't think it was wrong to be truthful when your friend asked you why you wouldn't go," Smokin_HOT_Ice added.

baby, happy couple, baby photo

A couple holds their newborn baby.

via Magnet.Me/Unsplash

One commenter with kids has a close friend who is a child-free and she has made an effort to ask her about her life and interests of just talking about parenting.

“I was 38 when I had my first child and I read an article in Working Mother magazine when I was pregnant, and it said not to be the jerk who always talks about your pregnancy and your baby to your friends, especially the ones without babies,” JellyBear135 wrote. “When I see her, I always ask about her work, her activities outside of work and recently, her new baby dog. She lives alone and doesn’t have a lot of people who always ask about her life so I make sure I always do. I check in via text every couple of weeks to ask her about her life.”

After receiving a huge response from her post, RL wrote an update revealing that another friend who’s in the same boat decided not to go on the trip as well. “I have spoken to one of my other friends invited on the trip (who is also not at the baby stage of life); she is also not going on the trip and said she is not attending for the same reason,” RL wrote.

It seems the big takeaway from RL’s dilemma isn’t just that stage-of-life changes such as marriage and having babies can create chasms in friendships. But we need to make sure that we’re not just talking about ourselves to our friends but listening to them as well. Because a one-way friendship isn’t a friendship at all.

Carl Sagan and a sliced apple

The concept of the fourth dimension seems beyond human comprehension. As three-dimensional beings, we are unable to see beyond a physical object's height, width and depth. What else could there be?

Enter Carl Sagan, revered as one of the greatest science communicators of his time. He possessed a unique gift for demystifying complex scientific concepts, making them accessible and thrilling for the general public. In 1980, on Episode 10 of the groundbreaking PBS show “Cosmos,” Sagan embarked on a mission to explain the seemingly impossible fourth dimension.


What’s excellent about Sagan’s explanation is that he uses simple and relatable objects: an apple and a Tesseract, or a hypercube.

Sagan began by discussing how a two-dimensional being living in a flat world would perceive a three-dimensional object like an apple.

“Imagine we live in this ‘flatland’/2-D plane with no concept of ‘up’ or ‘down.’ Then along comes a 3-D object like an apple. We do not even notice it until it crosses our plane of existence — and even then, we have no idea what the apple is,” Sagan explains. “We see only a fragment as it passes through our plane. There is no way we can comprehend the 3-D quality/dimension of the apple, because it is more than we can understand. We only have the evidence of what has passed through our plane.”

Sagan then related this two-dimensional experience of the third dimension to how we might try to understand the fourth. To do so, he used the Tesseract, a four-dimensional cube, to demonstrate how difficult it is for us to perceive or visualize dimensions beyond our own three. At this point, Sagan is asking the viewer to expand their minds to understand the fourth dimension metaphorically.

Sagan’s demonstration of the fourth dimension isn’t just a wonderful explanation of a scientific idea that many of us find difficult to comprehend; it’s also a great example of how to teach complex ideas by combining clear explanations with thought-provoking visuals.

Representative photo by Cottonbro Studio|Canva

Man shares classic 90s phrases giving millennials nostalgia

Every generation has their version of words and phrases they've deemed cool, but it's often fun to find out what previous generations used as slang. In the 70s they said things like "jive turkey," and "dynamite" while in the 80s they thought phrases like "bite me," or "chill pill" were interesting enough to toss into a sentence.

Recently a Gen Zer asked if people in the 90s really did say, "all that and a bag of chips." It's unclear if the person understood the context in which that phrase would've been used, nonetheless, a millennial answered the Bat Signal to blow their mind. Darren Brand decided to not only confirm the use of the familiar phrase, but to include multiple classic phrases in the video response he shared on Instagram.

"For me, some was good for then, some you could still use today and some we gotta let go. That's not the only one, okay," Brand responds before dropping some 90s gems.


"We got, 'talk to the hand.' Classic. "'As if'—'Clueless,' classic," the man says. Brand continues to rattle off some other phrases popular in the 90s bringing back memories for millennials who happened upon his video. This nostalgia resulted in people adding the slang words and phrases they recalled in the comments. Talk about a trip down memory lane.

The comments started off strong with this oldie someone leaves, "What’s crack-a-lackin!"

Not to be out done, someone drops, "Save the drama for yo mama."

One person shows that words never go out of style, "Dope. Things are still dope for me."

People clearly had a problem with minding their business, or at least it would seem from what another commenters shares, "all in the koolaid and don’t know the flavor!"

Someone else reminded people of the ultimate attitude checking statement, "you better check yourself before you wreck yourself."

Now that everyone has taken a time machine back to the 1900s to revel in their teenage language, it's time to come back to mortgages and kids. Who knows, maybe some of these phrases will slip back into modern slang phrases since everything seems to eventually be recycled from previous generations. Now that would be cool beans.