Why do children misbehave?

It is often difficult for parents to understand why children continue to do things you do not want them to do. Children's behaviour is their way of telling you how they are feeling.

Understanding the reasons for your children's misbehaviour will assist you in finding ways to help them behave differently.

There could be a number of reasons for misbehaviour:

  • to gain attention
  • lack of skills to deal with the situation differently
  • a cry for help or frustration
  • misunderstanding
  • unreasonable rules or expectations
  • forgetting the rules or limits.

Limit Setting

Children need limits. They need safe rules within which they can make choices, have responsibility and experience success. Limits must be clear and consistent! Inconsistency leaves children uncertain about what they can and cannot do. Set simple rules for everyone to follow and give reasons for these. Be aware of your reasons for setting the limit and make sure they are reasonable.

Constantly remind children of the rules and limits.

Consequences for breaking rules should:

  • happen as soon as possible
  • be short or they will lose their meaning
  • be linked to the original problem
  • always be safe and respectful of a child

Be firm but fair.

You can help your children by:

  • Listening to them and keeping lines of communication open
  • Acknowledging their feelings
  • Being consistent
  • Making sure your expectations are realistic
  • Giving them your time and attention
  • Encouraging their own problem solving
  • Praising them for good behaviour.


  • All children are different and may require different parenting approaches.
  • No approach will work all the time! Be creative.
  • Parenting styles must change and grow with the age, abilities and needs of a child.
Why do children misbehave?
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