3 Common Reasons Why Children 'Act Out'

3 Common Reasons Why Children 'Act Out'

Does your child act out badly? Are you having trouble calming them down? Kids can turn a relaxing situation into a difficult one fairly easily. Young or new parents can find the situation challenging. Still, these bad behavioral patterns are not as uncommon as you think.

Regardless of the severity of your child's tantrums and behavioral issues, you may benefit from consulting behavioral psychologists who specialize in children and teenagers - click here to find out more about how behavioral psychology may benefit your child.

With that said, let's look at the three reasons why children can act out.

What Does It Mean To Act Out?

For some children, acting out comes naturally to them - serving as a way for them to express themselves. Think of it like how a dog doesn't bite the couch out of spite, but rather because it's an innate and natural instinct. The same goes for children.

Acting out is when your children communicate in ways that signal unhealthy and stressful internal states. As they start key developmental stages, they may start to take up more rebellious roles and develop mischievous tendencies. This can also be called a form of misbehaving. They set back to this since communicating their thoughts, feelings, or experiences may be hard to put into words.

It's easy to jump to conclusions and believe that acting out is irreparable. But with the right nurture and direction, you and your child can enter a journey that seeks to understand each other. This can ultimately bring your relationship to healthier and manageable levels, which is beneficial for both you and your child.

Reason #1 They Are Feeling A Power Struggle

As a parent, have you ever insisted your child do something but they just won't budge? You go on and on about saying how they should do a thing, but all they do is shake their head and cross their arms. Sounds familiar?

This can be a finicky position to be in as parents. Having your child act out of line is an often losing battle right as you enter the argument. It's because, during a power struggle between parent and child, the goal for everyone is to individually win rather than work together. If the parent gets more riled up for the child to comply, it fuels the child to become more resistant as well.

One way to solve this is by letting them be and let consequences run their course. This is judged based on context and risk levels, but by doing this, you'll let them figure out on their own that doing certain actions may in fact, not turn out too great after all. An example of this is by giving in to their persistence to go out in the cold without a jacket. They'll eventually learn of the consequences and realize the flaws in their behavior.

Another example is giving them the power to choose. State two possible paths for your child to decide from. For example, reframe your argument and say that he or she can choose whether to go to school early or to not watch TV for three months. That'll push him or her to understand the severity of the context, allowing you to more easily guide them to the choice you think is best for them.

Reason #2 They May Have A Mental Health Condition

Some children act out because they may have some underlying disorders that may cause them to behave that way. These can range from neurodivergent disorders to undiagnosed mental health disorders. This includes:

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Anxiety disorder like SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder)


Obsessive-compulsive disorder

From any of these conditions, your child can exhibit signs of acting out and erratic behavior. It's important to be gentle with them during their bouts of emotional outbursts. If you suspect your child has any of these illnesses above, you should consult a trained physician about it. By diagnosing your child early, you'll be able to learn the right ways to deal with them as they develop into young adulthood. These disorders can be treated with the right therapy and treatment.

Reason #3 They Want Your Attention

Neglect is a common reason why children can act out. Neglect comes in many forms. Namely, it encompasses the failure of the child to receive important things such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. While the absence or lack of those things can endanger a child, emotional neglect can be just as potent.

As a result of neglect, either from peers or relatives, a child may go through lengths to seek attention in any form. This can include positive and negative types of attention. They act out to move away as a response to the pain and abuse they get from neglect. But consequently, this could further develop deep emotional scars and traumas that they're susceptible to carry with them throughout adulthood.

In cases like this, you should bring the child to therapy and set aside some time to introduce positive familial love in the household.