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Updated: October 23, 2012 10:07 AM | By I.J. Schecter
Kids' behaviour: 10 things to forgive them for (and why)

We love our children — we really do. But certain traits and phases can be infuriating. Here's what's going on inside your kid's brain



Kids aren't thinking (© JW Photography/Getty Images)
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  • Kids aren't thinking (© JW Photography/Getty Images)
  • 1. Clumsiness (© David Freund/iStockphoto)
  • 2. Selfishness (© Photo: Diego Cervo/iStockphoto)
  • 3. Inflexibility
  • 4. Impatience (© Rosemarie Gearhart/iStockphoto)
  • 5. Immaturity (© kickers/iStockphoto)
  • 6. Unpredictability (© Shawn Gearhart/iStockphoto)
  • 7. Lack of empathy (© Debi Bishop/iStockphoto)
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Do you ever shake your head at your kid's less-than-perfect behaviour? Joseph Shrand, a child psychiatrist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, explains that the two distinct parts of a still-developing human brain are mismatched: “Children’s limbic brain, responsible for impulses, emotions and pleasure, is more mature than their prefrontal cortex, responsible for thinking, making decisions and anticipating consequences.” In other words, poor behaviour isn't necessarily a result of poor thinking. Kids aren’t thinking (at least not the way adults can).

Here are 10 behaviours that baffle us — and the science behind them.

A version of this article appeared in our September 2012 issue with the headline "10 things to forgive your kids for (and why)," pp. 66-70.

Information is current as of the original date of publication.

44Comments
Nov 3, 2012 7:57AM
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I'm sorry but this is just justifying bad behavior. You're saying it's okay for children to be mean, selfish and rude and telling parents that they shouldn't correct this. That's what wrong with society today, there's a reason for every bad behavior so it's let to continue. I was raised being told what's right and wrong and I think I turned out pretty good. I expect decent behavior from my children and yes they get punished for bad. If you make someone feel bad with your words you will be put on time out and learn that it's not okay to say that. If you don't share the other child gets it all and you are left out to see how it feels. If bad behavior is never corrected it continues even into adulthood which is why what used to be common decency is no longer common but a rarity.

Nov 3, 2012 11:13AM
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WHy does 'today' say 'don't punish' or 'no consequence' so much? My goodness! We now have mere babies as teens. They never hear NO or WAIT anymore. They cry at the smallest thing. Change is now mortifying to kids. HELLO!!! Change is life. These kids will have no coping skills by the time they graduate. I love my children enough to support them thru change, not protect them from it. They lose a priviledge when they are rude, behaving badly, etc. They are well behaved in school. Good grades. Play sports. Can LOSE without crying like a baby. This newsbit is crazy.

Nov 3, 2012 1:43AM
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this is all not so "common sense" stuff, the bottom line is people need to stop expecting children to behave as adults. Children( very young) have not been here long enough to understand how to express or deal with (contain) their emotions , this takes time which from my perspective many adults don't understand . My favorite is when those whom have never had children of there own expect  a baby or small child to behave like grown adults. This is also why so many people are putting their children on drugs to subdue their behavior, " my  5yrs old doesn't sit still and has the attention span of a nat, please help!!"  no freaking ****ng its called being a child. Kids aren't meant to sit still all day long, how would their coordination and muscles develop otherwise. Those parents whom feel this is the only solution need to start being parents ( nobody said it was easy) and the teachers and schools whom push these drugs on parents and their children need to re-think why they are there and teaching. young children are not meant to sit about all day and have the attention span of young adults and adults ! I'm not saying let children run free, everyone needs rules to live by children the most  as a solid foundation allows a child to feel safe, as they know whats expected of them. And I'm a firm believer in the saying" if you expect nothing, then you get nothing" However those expectations need to be realistic of the child in question , when a 2yrs old has a melt down sometimes there's no getting around it , no re-directing their attention and that roller coaster of emotion, you just gotta ride it out. Believe me no parent wants to listen to their child cry scream or otherwise listen too their child have a meltdown and they are not immune!!.I get very tired of hearing adults putting down parents and almost pouting about the fact that someones small child had a melt down or wasn't behaving in an adult manner . the whole attitude toward parents , babies and young children is disgraceful to say the least . I have heard adults pout about the fact that it would not be ok it they started having a meltdown in fronted of everyone,  well guess what when that infant or small child is a young adult or adult it won't be ok for them to behave in that manner ether, of course by then they will have had ample time to learn to control their emotions , so get over your self!!
Nov 3, 2012 12:44PM
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this kind of "pe****gical theory" resulted in today's young generation of egotistical, insensitive, cruel, heartless brats with an ingrained sense of entitlement and total lack of responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
Nov 3, 2012 9:02AM
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I hope these ppl have children.  My daughter at a young age took off on me during xmas shopping and the parking lot was busy I spanked her for it right in front of everyone she never took off again but according to these pple my child was exparementing with me whatever my child is alive what should she have died because of their results.  They are wrong. If children need to pull tantrums or do what they are doing than the parents of those kids need help because time outs talkings screamming and other precautions do not work. My child at a young age knew who was boss, she never tried to pull the wool over my eyes
Nov 3, 2012 11:31AM
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I don't have kids, but I think some of these make sense and some of them don't. I understand not getting after your child because she spills her milk, or not telling her off for being a little impatient. Things that are clearly accidental or difficult for kids to control shouldn't be punished. But regardless of how much a child's behaviour has to do with developmental phases, being mean or selfish is never ok. Yes, it's definitely normal for children to exhibit those behaviours at times, but it still needs to be punished. I know you can never know for sure how you would discipline children until you've had them, but personally I hate meanness, and if I had a child who was name-calling or bullying anybody, I feel sure I would tell them to give it up. I don't see how kids can learn how to regulate their behaviour, or how to feel shame for bad actions, unless parents set an example first.
Nov 3, 2012 3:54PM
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I have raised three children and have grandchildren;  each one is (was) different. Children have bad days the same adults and children should not be expected to know what an adult knows in how to  behave. HOWEVER......children should know where the line is drawn.  No back-talk, no screaming, no meanness to others and taught not to be selfish.  There is a way to teach children rules without being mean yourself.....be fair and just and the child will adjust accordingly.  Of course a parent should never spank because of an accident (dropping ice cream for example or spilling a drink)  but if a child has been warned several times not to do something that may not be safe for them, then a  controlled spanking it is!
Nov 3, 2012 3:44PM
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What a bunch of crap.. So now besides not being able to spank your kids when needed, and believe me, sometimes they do need, you shouldn't hurt their feelings for behaving inappropriately? Please!
Nov 3, 2012 5:59AM
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I would read it if there was something herer to read..
Nov 3, 2012 3:53PM
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I have raised three children and have grandkids, and each one is different.  Each child handles dicipline differently also; what works for one, may not work for the others.  I do not think a child should be punished for accidents or be punished  because  the parent had a rotten day.  There is a saying that" ---- rolls downhill" and some children never know what the consequences will be  if the parent themselves are not CONSISTENT. There has to be control and a degree of firmness as long as the punishment is fair  and fits the crime and the parent themselves are in control.  when handling it.  Always remember to talk about it after so that the lesson is learned.  
Nov 3, 2012 1:39PM
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It's not justifying bad behavior. Maybe you should read it again.It's an explanation, it's some insight into what is going on in your child's brain at the time they are doing something you disagree with. I think the point is that kids are kids, so be patient and understanding. People like you are what's wrong with society. So quick to judge and have a opinion and think that you know it all. You have the answers,and everyone else is wrong. Obviously certain bad behavior has to be punished,and that  is only PART of the learning process for children.  So is explaining and teaching children why, what they are doing is wrong. Kids should be kids,let them pick their noses,scrape their knees, watch cartoons and eat tooth rotting sugary cereal.  The lack of common decency in society has nothing to do with how kids are disciplined. There's how many different people,cultures,customs in any given city? everyone has their own way of doing things, and you expect them all to behave like you? Because you're the perfect model of society? 
Nov 3, 2012 10:15PM
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complete pile of crap! children have parents for a reason , we guide and correct negative behavior, we encourage and nurture positive. If children were meant to simply develop on their own and act in any manner their emotions or impulses brought forth without any parental guidance , we would have nothing but a generation of selfish , insensitive, arrogant and infantile adults,, oh wait we already do.
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There is a limit on the amount of B.S. parents will take I have four children and yes they are all different,  the one thing that is the same is my rules, and kids are ADAPTIVE to change and learn from there mistakes isn't it logical that discipline and repetition is the best way to make them better people. Putting a kid in time out or using a wimpy whinny voice to tell them not to do something is not the answer. The government and these so called experts in child behavior have no clue because they don’t care about the kids or there parents, all they care about is THE ALL MIGHTY DOLLAR. People have raised children since the beginning of humanity, there are those who have no clue what to do, there are those who use there heads and logically can be good parents, who can make there kids use there own heads to make the right choices. When I see people let there kids doo whatever they want and use the ( I can’t control him excuse ) all I want to do is smack them upside the head and tell them to grow a pair.

Nov 3, 2012 1:25PM
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umI'm 30 and I love to watch Ever After over, and over, and over again...The first time I spilled a glass of liquid I was 8 and cried...but it was ok mom said...Impatience, I know many ADULTS who are impatient...my patience I actually gained through playing poker.  So it can be a learned skill for I was most impatient.  Your 9 year old is swearing...why? I mean, kids didn't swear back in the day like they do now so don't give me this crap about THEORIES on brain functioning.  Its the adults that swear and children see and so they do.  I had a JK **** call another boy a LOSER and made him cry.  She was what, not even 6? Your child loses it when you change plans? I don't know any children that do that...unless their really spoiled.  The  boy who sees his sister fall? its not bc he didn't notice...its bc he's a boy! and as a young boy, he thinks that his sister doesn't care if she fell either, and if she did bc she's crying, then he probably can't see why....k I'm done refuting everything...there is no neurological psyhcological problems...Your children have bad behaviour because they're spoiled, and can't pay attention in class NOT because they have ADD, but because they have way too much sugar for breakfast and lunch...I seen kids' lunches, have you? Its a bag of sugar...and what does sugar do to children? Creates hyperness for those who don't know...who wrote this garbage?
Nov 3, 2012 7:24PM
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i agree with cleo201 its is all on the parents kids need disaplen and respect with out it they wont learn its the parents job to teach them if they dont thats when u get the kids that dont care and get away with anything

Nov 3, 2012 3:28PM
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Check into the reactions of children (or adults) with  " Asperger Syndrome". It causes extreme behavior and complete meltdowns if anythng interrupts the person suffering from this disease.

Nov 3, 2012 5:50PM
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Dear me people there is no right and wrong to parenting but rather, what kind of outcome our teachings will result in.  I am neither offended or agree completely with the article because it should only be here to give you the other side of the coin.  If you've been too harsh and expected them to act 18 at age 0 (like me) then you may rethink things.  At the same time if you've been too soft then you should try to avoid one of your kids turning into a monstrousity i.e. fighting to get in the elevator when there are clearly wheelchairs and strollers around.
Nov 3, 2012 2:04PM
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today kids dont get introuble at schools they get off for bullying or picking on other kids and teachers or prinicples do nothing they should have never taken the strap out of schools and now schools dont know how to handle the bad kids and they now are called babysitters  as schoool is not like it used to be
Nov 3, 2012 11:03PM
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Ramakrishna stick to the hary krishna metaphores!! your an idiot. allowing children to rule you is not only stupid its why children who are allowed to do this grow up to be abbusive totheir own children and other adults!! the reason we setablish who is the adult and athuority figure and who is the child is balance. allow them an inch they take a mile is not just a saying. i observed a mother of two allow her son to take temper tantruims. she enabled him and when he got more exspresive and loud she freaked out more only fueling his out burst even more. when his uncle stepped up and confronted the son he stopped and saw he wasn't getting away with it with him and ran away from the situation. we need toe stablis boundies and sometimes the situation calls for tough love as they say.
Nov 2, 2012 11:19PM
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Every parent should read this article, understanding why children do the things they do as a result of the varying stages of brain development will certainly result in less parental abuse, but not using lack of development as an excuse not to discipline; parents would be more measured in how they discipline. I always view children's behavior as fascinating and matter of fact entertaining they give you the good and challenging not the good and the bad as we often say.
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