When kids act out, it can be frustrating and make you feel powerless. You may wonder what you’ve done wrong as a parent, and you may even believe that your child is beyond control- however, there are often major underlying reasons behind bad behavior in kids.

People, especially children, don’t do things for absolutely no reason. While they may not be able to fully explain what is going on behind the scenes, when you look closely, there is often some reason behind their bad behavior. If you are dealing with behavioral issues in your child, it may help to understand what the possible causes are, or it may even help to speak with a child therapist for a bit of help.

With that being said, here are the 9 most common causes for bad behavior in children.

1. They are struggling to deal with an upsetting situation.

Immense stress and change are hard on anyone, but it’s especially hard on children who are still developing. If your little one is going through a major change or difficult situation (a loss, a divorce, a major change in their life) they may act out because they don’t understand how to cope. Try helping them cope through understanding, structure, and empathy. And if need be, seek counseling.

2. They have sensory issues.

During the developmental years, children and infants begin developing their sensory abilities. In some cases, they may have a sensory processing disorder (autism, ADHD, anxiety) that makes it difficult for them to handle stimuli. In turn, they may act out, because they are unable to process outside stimuli as they should. Certain sounds and sights may set them off. If you notice sensory issues in your child, it’s best to seek help from a professional.

3. They want attention.

Kids need and crave attention from their caretakers, and if they aren’t getting enough of it- they may demand it in unexpected ways. If you aren’t spending quality time with your child and their behavior is changing for the worst- it’s time to prioritize time with them.

4. They lack consistency in their routines.

Consistency is everything for kids. They need consistent bedtime, consistent meal times, and consistent routines. This helps them to become structured and then, they know what to expect. A lack of structure can put them on edge and also make it hard for them to get proper rest.

5. They aren’t getting proper rest.

Rest is so important. Without it- our bodies don’t heal properly, we become groggy and unable to process our surroundings, and it can make us upset and edgy. Children need more rest than adults. Check with your pediatrician about the amount of sleep your child needs each night, and ensure they are getting it.

6. Their diet is not balanced.

Nutrition is important. Vitamins and minerals and making sure we get the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat is especially important for children. Their brains are developing, and for them to develop correctly, they need the right balance of nutrition. No, they don’t need to eat perfectly, but yes, they do need a balanced diet that includes plenty of lean protein, healthy fats, and carbs.

7. They have an underlying mental health condition.

We often have an idea of what certain mental health conditions look like, but sometimes, our ideas are way off. Mental health issues can look much different than we imagine in children, and behavioral issues that aren’t caused by any other obvious reasons can be due to mental health. If you have addressed everything else, and still notice issues, seek professional help.

8. They are being bullied or abused.

Kids don’t always want to come to their caretakers and tell them when they are being bullied or abused by someone else. They may be afraid, or they may not know how to express it. Their bullying and abuse can come up in other ways, however, so it’s best to communicate openly and clearly about abuse/bullying with your kids.

9. They are going through a progression.

I’ve said this so many times – but kids are developing! During this time, they will go through many progressions and changes internally, that we may not even be aware of. Their minds and bodies are constantly growing and changing, so it makes sense that sometimes, they will be a bit off-balance.

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