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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.

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.

Canva

Unique baby names are definitely trendy. But it can backfire.

There’s a fine line between a unique name and one that sets kids up for a lifetime of ridicule.

On the one hand, maybe it shouldn’t matter what other people think, and parents should pick a name that suits their preferences, consequences be damned. On the other hand, their kid might not appreciate that kind of bravery after enduring years of bullying during childhood, followed constant confusion at Starbucks and truly unenviable work emails once they’re adults.

And this chapter of parenting can be a little stressful—even more stressful if neither partner can agree on a name they both like.


This was the case for a husband who absolutely hated a name his wife so eagerly wished to give their unborn son. But rather than follow the popular “one no, two yeses” rule of baby-naming, where both parents must agree on the name chosen for a child, the wife instead went full steam ahead with her idea.

According to the husband’s account on Reddit, here’s what happened:

“Me (25m) and my wife (23f) are having our first child together. She is currently 9 months pregnant and could give birth anytime in the next couple of weeks. The only major fight we have had throughout her pregnancy happened a couple days ago, and it was about what we were going to name our kid.”

AITA for refusing to let my wife name our kid something stupid?
byu/Public-Praline-3691 inAmItheAsshole

“It all started when we found out the gender of the baby,” he continued. “After we found out we were having a boy we sat down together and made a list. Almost all of the names she suggested were normal, until the one that caused me to write this post. She suggested we name our son Mune.”

Mune. Like…dune an “m?” Or like “mun?” “Moon?” “Money?” “Mew-nay?” So many questions.

“She told me the name was from this movie she watched when she was younger and that it always stuck with her,” the husband explained, saying that when he told her it felt a “little out there” and was worried their son might get made fun of.

After a little back and forth, the couple agreed to take the name Mune off the list. Or so the dad-to-be thought.

“Later on in her pregnancy her mom decided to throw a baby shower as it was her first grandchild. It was fine for the most part until we started to open the gifts. Most of them were normal baby things like diapers and bottles, until we got to her mom’s gift. My wife opened the gift bag and pulled out a blue handmade blanket. It seemed normal enough at first until my wife unfolded it and low and behold there was the name Mune written on the blanket,” he wrote.

The man had tried to keep cool until after the party was over. However, when he confronted his wife about it, all hell seemed to break loose.

“She got defensive and told me that it was a good name and that I was overreacting about it,” he concluded. “I brought up the earlier points and told her it was a stupid name for a kid and if she wanted to name something Mune so bad she could use the name for a dog. She got upset and called her mom to come get her. After she left she called me and told me she wouldn’t be coming back for a while. Everyone I’ve talked to about this has said I’m not the asshole, but now that my wife has been gone and I've been thinking about it I feel like I could have handled the situation better.”

Yikes.

parenting, baby names, unique baby names

Parenting is nothing is full of compromises

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While the husband might have regretted his actions, public opinion overwhelmingly sided with him.

One mom wrote, “Naming a baby is a 2 yes or 1 no situation. You do not name a child something your partner does not agree with. You find a compromise. This is the start of many necessary compromises in life and it is a total AH move to unilaterally decide on a child's name despite your partner's misgivings…She is absolutely not mature enough for motherhood if she can not find a reasonable compromise on this.”

Another added “this is a child, not a goldfish. There are consequences and repercussions to choosing a name that is very unusual to begin with.... To go behind the other parent's back and tell a grandparent what the name is going to be, that is unacceptable.”

Others noted how the wife and her mom “pulled a power play,” which “in itself is an a**hole move.” In addition, many pointed out that running away from the conflict (leaving to go to mom’s house) might have not been the best way to handle the situation.

“Leaving so she doesn’t have to face the argument is actually a form of abuse if it happens a lot,” one person commented. “She may just have baby brain and be overreacting due to hormones, but that is red flag behavior of it can’t be dismissed for reasons beyond her control.

baby names, parenting

What's ina name? A lot, apparently.

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And if there’s any doubt as to just how damaging weird name can be, take it from this person:

“My name has prevented me from doing anything that would have my name called out in a crowd of people. Never tried sports. Military was a no go. I don't even want to apply for higher positions at work because I don't want to have meetings in closed rooms where people might call my name.

“…Being forced to grow up with a weird name discouraged me from a lot of things and I began resenting my parents for thinking they were being creative. I had to live with it through grade school and high school. The ridicule didn't end until the damage was already done.”

Raising a kid together is full of making compromises, prioritizing healthy communication, and honoring commitments, none of which are easy 100 percent of the time. But if couples can’t learn how to navigate these issues, then disagreeing on names is the least of their problems. We can all agree that parenting as true partners means men often need to step up their games. But it takes two for parenting to truly flourish and that includes respect your partner and making choices that are good for the entire family. Together.


This article originally appeared on 10.19.23

Kids watching their parents dance to Taylor Swift is sheer delight.

We all know parenting can be tough, but if there's one thing that makes the roller coaster of emotions totally worth it, it's seeing our children's faces light up with joy.

Children's smiles are infectious, and not in the scary pandemic kind of a way. There's simply nothing better in this world than the face of a bright-eyed little human beaming with happiness, which is why a recent TikTok trend has people grinning from ear to ear themselves.

The premise is simple: The parent asks the kid to record them dancing to Taylor Swift's "Love Story" with the screen facing away from them (under the guise that the parent dancing needs to see themselves). So instead of recording the parent dancing, it's actually recording the kid's face watching them.

And oh, the love and joy on these kids' faces is so, so sweet to witness. Watch:

@thechavezfamilyy

The end 😭😭 why am I bawling at this trend?! He’s SO CUTE #momsoftiktok #momtok #toddlersoftiktok

That face. OMG.

And check out the encouragement from this little fella:

@themarshhfamily

The end did it for me 🥹😭I birthed such a sweet, loving and encouraging little boy!! #momtok #toddlersoftiktok #taylorswiftchallenge #lovestorychallenge #boymom #toddlermom

Seriously, seeing close-ups of kids' joy should be a daily thing.

@makingthemoffitts

#nationaladoptionmonth #adoptionawareness #thisisadoption #thisisfostercare #adoption #fostercare #makingthemoffitts #lovestorychallenge #taylorswift

Some dads have gotten in on the trend as well. Look at the way this little girl beams at her daddy.

@durbanofamily

Had to jump on the trend! Love this beautiful girl!

Of course, part of the beauty of having kids is you simply never know what they're going to do. While some youngsters gaze lovingly at their parents while they dance, others have a … well … different reaction. Check out this girl's facial expressions:

@haleigh.booth

It’s the side eye at the end for me 😆😂😂😂😂

Hilarious. And because this is the internet, naturally someone had to do the TikTok trend with their dog. Gotta admit, Ellie's toothy grin is pretty darn cute as well.

@elliegoldenlife

This is why I don’t dance 😂

TikTok trends can sometimes be strange, annoying or problematic, but once in a while one comes along that brings people together in surprisingly delightful ways. Seeing people's kids' pure enjoyment watching their parents being silly is simply the best.


This article originally appeared on 11.15.22

Family

How 5 diabolical parents called their kids' bluff in hilarious ways

The next generation is in great, if diabolical, hands.

Photo by Phuong Tran on Unsplash



Recently, blogger Jen Hatmaker had a funny conversation with a friend about parenting:

"My girlfriend told me the greatest story. Apparently her 11-year-old also wanted to be a grown up this week and, in fact, not only did he treat his siblings like despised underlings, but when asked what he wanted, he said: 'I want the authority to be in charge of them and tell them what to do, because they deserve it!'


Well. My girlfriend and her husband are NOT AT ALL MESSING AROUND with parenting. Calmly, evenly, they granted his request to be a grown-up for a week by pulling him out of camp (the underlings still got to go, because they are 'such children') and sending him to work ALL DAY EVERY DAY with his dad. He has to get up early and shower and make breakfast for everyone. He has to kiss the underlings before he goes to work and tell them to have a great day and that he loves them. He has to work on a typing project during his office hours. He only gets to eat what his dad eats, because eating like a grown-up is not nearly as fun as eating like a kid.


Want to be an adult? Fine."

Photo via iStock.

Hatmaker's post went viral, with thousands of parents chiming in with their own stories of tough love, both giving and receiving.

The responses were hilarious, poignant, and a sign that the next generation is being parented by extremely capable, if not a little bit diabolical, hands.

Here are five of my favorite stories from the comments about parenting-gone-absolutely-right:


1. Jill Duff's mom used an embarrassing outfit to teach her sister an important lesson:

"My sister was snotty to my Mom. She called her and pretty much demanded, 'Bring my band uniform to the high school!' She's the one who forgot her uniform in the first place. Then she told my Mom 'Do not come in the school, that would be so EMBARRASSING. Just wait for me by my car.'

So my Mom did just that. She stood by my sister's car, in the Texas heat, WEARING my sister's band uniform. All the kids walking out for the day saw it.

Parenting GOLD."

And Mom was like...

2. Jessica Klick got her sons new shoes ... but not the ones they wanted.

Image via iStock.

"Our 11 and 12 year olds at the time were complaining and whining and being ungrateful, saying how 'hard their life was.' For boys, the big thing is wearing those cool Steph Curry shoes and our boys LOVE their Currys!

So after hearing the last complaint my husband went to Walmart to buy white maypop leather shoes (the kind you see in geriatric centers) and high white socks. He brought those bad boys home, set them on the boys' dresser, and made them wear those things everywhere we went. Those devastated boys told us we were 'ruining their lives.'

I may or may not have laughed like a little girl when I dropped them off at school and watched them do the walk of shame."

3. Marisa Rodriguez Byers says she wished her mother was dead. And boy, did she regret it.

"I was a wretched, hormonal teenager. At the age of 13 I told my mom, 'I wish you were dead!' And at that moment, she 'died,' but to me only. (I had younger sisters).

She completely ignored me, didn't speak at me, didn't look at me, wouldn't cook for me, set my place at the table, wash my clothes, take me to school, NOTHING. After 8 days, I broke down in the middle of the night, went to her room, clutched her tightly while sobbing how sorry I was and how much I loved her and that I would NEVER say those words again. I'm 41 years old now, I have NEVER uttered those words or anything remotely like them after that incident."

After tough love, you gotta hug it out.

4. Jessica Hill gave her daughter a good scare — and, in turn, a new appreciation.

"I was grocery shopping with my three year old when she decided to start screaming for ice cream. There was no reasoning with her in this hulk-type rage. I swear she had super human strength as I struggled to get her out of the cart full of groceries.

I was completely unaware of the two police officers who were witnessing this wrestling match. She was still hitting, kicking, and screaming when I was stopped by the police officers in the parking lot. They thought I had abducted her. This happened long before we had smart phones full of our children's photos. They tried questioning her but she was still too busy throwing a fit, so I handed her over. I told them she could ride with them because I really needed a break and they could follow me home to see her birth certificate, baby book, etc. They started chuckling as one officer said, 'Spoken like a true mom!' I think they were more relieved than I was when she finally cried out, 'Mommy?'

The officer handed her back to me while the other went back inside the store to ensure there wasn't a distraught mother looking for her missing toddler. That evening my daughter told her dad she almost went to jail because she threw a fit, and I let her believe it. She didn't throw a fit in public again."

"Uhh, ma'am?"

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

"I didn't mean to scare her, so after this experience, I wanted to ensure my daughter had a healthy respect and appreciation for first responders. Today, I'm happy to say she is highly aware and appreciative of the police, firemen, paramedics, and military personnel who serve to protect her."

5. Erica Goodnight taught her son an incredible lesson that he carries to this day.

Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr

"My kid was whining over not having anything to play with. So, without a word, I went to the garage and got a black 50 gallon trash bag and started putting in all the toys that he obviously didn't even realize were in our home to play with.

I loaded them AND him into the car and we drove to our local homeless shelter and gave every. single. toy. in the bag away. To a child who TRULY had nothing. And you know what? He didn't even cry. His eyes were opened to the ones who have nothing. He actually enlarged his heart that day. And, we still do it. We still take toys to kids with nothing at least once a year."

Parent win. Life lesson score.

There's a fine line between teaching your kids a tough lesson in a funny way and engaging in "humiliation parenting."

Making children wear a sign that says, "I sneak boys in at 3 a.m. and disrespect my parents and grandparents" or otherwise berating them publicly is a good way to erode trust between the two of you and seriously damage your relationship.

But calling their bluff on a ridiculous demand? Or having a little fun with how you choose to correct their bad attitude? That's just plain survival.

And that's what parenting is really all about.

You can read the whole hilarious exchange over on Facebook.

In the meantime, what's your favorite tough-love story?


This article originally appeared on 07.13.16