What You Misunderstand About Your Misbehaving Child | Ep. 29

Insights into your stressed, anxious, and discouraged child

If you’ve got a child that seems to be misbehaving more than usual, you’re not alone. These are trying times. If your child seems to be acting out all of a sudden, you might have a Stressed, Anxious, or Discouraged (SAD) child.

You can be a person of peace in the midst of chaos. You can understand your misbehaving child.

The current challenges of staying at home can cause even more distress for a child who is already intense and sensitive. A struggling child can increase tension in an already stressful situation.

In this article, also available as a video or audio download, you’ll  learn what’s going on in kids’ brains when they struggle with outbursts of whining and demanding behavior. When we understand our misbehaving (SAD) child, we can better help them!

Why do kids misbehave?

It might be hard for you to believe, but kids generally don’t misbehave to make your life miserable. There are a variety of reasons a child might be acting out with strong emotions. Kids could be:

  • Stressed by external circumstances (there are plenty of these right now!).
  • Anxious due to sensory issues, being highly gifted, or just fear about what’s happening in the world. 
  • Discouraged because of feelings of failure, inferiority, or sibling insecurity.

Another contributing factor could be serotonin imbalances, which are common in children. When serotonin is low, kids are easily angry, aggressive, impulsive, irritable, anxious, discouraged, and don’t sleep as well. 

Your child’s struggle is not a reflection of his or her character. 

Whatever the underlying cause, remember:
Your child’s struggle is not a reflection of his or her character. 

Four-year-old Maria described her inner turmoil after a busy morning with other kids;  “My brain couldn’t make my body stop being mean. My heart is kind but my body doesn’t listen!”

A negative response with lectures and consequences will only increase your child’s stress and reinforce a “problem-child identity.” When kids off-load their stress, their outbursts are signaling the need for a safe parent to come alongside and coach them through it.

How can I help my misbehaving child?

  • Get in their shoes. Ask yourself, “What’s it like to be my child right now?”
  • Reframe the situation with compassion. Maria’s mom responded to her struggling daughter, “We’ll get this all figured out! I love your kind heart and it shines through even when your body ‘doesn’t listen.’” 
  • Enter confidently as an ally and a coach. Communicate, either through your words or actions, “I’m strong enough to handle your difficult feelings. The Holy Spirit comes alongside to comfort and help me, so I can do the same for you!

When kids off-load their stress, their outbursts are signaling the need for a safe parent to come alongside and coach them through it.

Listen deeply, especially when your child is acting out.

Julia’s mom found success with her daughter’s outbursts by saying, “Julia, you have some big feelings! Let’s set the timer for three minutes, and you can tell me everything you’re feeling and upset about. When the timer rings, we’ll problem-solve!” This mom set aside her judgments and listened well, which helped both of them calm down so they could solve the problem.

When we respond with understanding and compassion, we can build an identity in our child as a problem-solver rather than a problem-child. That’s something to celebrate! 

We all want home to be a safe place for our family during these challenging times. The goal is not to eliminate chaos and make behavior go away, but to invite God’s grace and truth to guide our compassion for our struggling children.

You can be a person of peace in the middle of chaos. You can understand your misbehaving child. We are here to help, and would love to hear from you and to pray for you! Email your prayer requests to info@connectedfamilies.org

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Prayer

Lord, I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit comes alongside to comfort and encourage me, so I can, in turn, comfort and encourage my kids. In Jesus name, Amen.


Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook 4 Messages All Children Long to Hear: A Discipline That Connects Overview

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