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Little known reasons behind a child’s challenging behaviour

Team StoryWeavers|June 21, 2022, 17:17 IST|

Little known reasons behind a child’s challenging behaviour

“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.”

― Bill Ayers, American activist and educator

Children are children. They sometimes act up, occasionally throw tantrums, and at times engage in challenging behaviours. When these challenging or difficult behaviours of children start happening more frequently, parents may start questioning their own parenting practisesand abilities. They may also start wondering if the child is deliberately acting out, which is rarely the case. 

That’s why in this article, we will speak about common reasons that add to a child’s difficult or challenging behaviour. 

Common reasons why children engage in challenging behaviours

Dr Sarah Hughes’ book, Parenting Made Simple: Straightforward, Practical Strategies for Common Childhood Challenges, lists common reasons that contribute to the child’s challenging behaviour. Dr Sarah is a clinical psychologist. She has a decade’s worth of experience working with children. Here are some of the reasons why children might engage in difficult behaviour. 

Reason 1: “You (Parents) do not give me attention otherwise”

Parental attention is an excellent reinforcer—be it positive or negative. Parents need to take note of things that are grabbing their attention when it comes to their child. If the behaviour is stemming from the need for attention, parents need to employ a different approach to tackle it. 

Reason 2: “You are expecting too much from me”

Difficult behaviour can be a result of parents expecting too much from the children. Parents want their children to be well-prepared for more, but parents need to ensure that their instructions and expectations from their children are age-appropriate. 

Reason 3: “You keep changing the rules”

Consistency is key when it comes to helping your child learn new things and habits. It takes a while for children to get accustomed to parental expectations. Parents need to give children time to understand their expectations and get used to them. Children learn through repetition and feedback. When the rules change too often, it gets confusing for the child, and the child is then likely to engage in challenging behaviour. 

Reason 4: “You do not always follow through”

More often than not, parents set family rules and the consequences for their children, but rarely follow through on them, especially when the rules are broken. The message that then gets delivered to the children is that you don’t mean what you say, which is not ideal when we are dealing with difficult behaviour. 

Reason 5: “You have not told me what I should do instead”

One of the simplest reasons why the child could be misbehaving is the lack of clear instructions. Children need to be told what to do just as clearly as they are told what not to do. It may seem obvious to adults, but children need that clarity to understand the right course of action. For example: Tell them to ‘Sit quietly’ instead of ‘Don’t touch that glass object.’

Reason 6: “You do not give me a chance to feel in control”

Children are told what to do, what to wear, when to go, where to go. They barely have any autonomy or independence, and it is for their own good. However, children may want to have some control over their life and want some independence. Parents need to find ways to foster independence in their children in a safe environment. 

Reason 7: “You do the same”

Children are keen observers. They learn from their parents’ behaviour. Parents’ actions are likely to have more of an impact than their words and what they have to say. One of the best ways to teach the child correct or appropriate behaviour is by setting an example. 

Finding out the reasons behind difficult behaviour is important, but what’s equally important is how parents are responding to them. Parents need to remember that challenging behaviour is influenced by multiple factors. It will take a while—weeks, months, or even years for your child to learn to regulate their behaviour. In the meanwhile, be patient and keep showing up for your child. Let them know that you are there for them every step of the way. It will make them feel supported and loved, which may in turn reduce the likelihood of difficult behaviour. 

Did you find this article helpful? What are some other reasons behind a child’s challenging behaviour? Let us know in the comments below. 


Hughes, S. (2020). Parenting Made Simple: Straightforward, Practical Strategies for Common Childhood Challenges. Australia: Exisle Publishing Limited. 

Also read, 

About the Author

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She wholeheartedly believes in the quote by Arthur Rubinstein that says – “if you love life, life will love you back”. She is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grades 2 & 3, as a part of the Teach For India Fellowship. These little girls have a special place in her heart, and when she writes for children, she writes for them!

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