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10 Ways It's Normal For Kids To Misbehave (And 10 To Pay Close Attention To)

Anyone who’s a parent–especially a new parent–will realize how difficult raising a kid is. If only they were all perfect little angels who do everything we told them to – but no. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t understand and sometimes it’s genuine rebellion, but kids have a tendency to misbehave and that’s just a fact that all parents will have to accept and expect.

However, there are certain things that are normal and certain things that just aren’t. Although kids might not know right from wrong in certain situations, there are some things kids do that their parents just brush off as typical behavior – and often, it’s not! Then there’s the other side of the spectrum, where parents go into panic mode over something that might be entirely normal and very easy to correct. I understand – it's hard to judge if someone's a new parent!

This list is 10 things that a child might be doing that is totally normal–even if it does need correcting–and 10 things that a parent might want to seek advice on, because that behavior is definitely not normal and needs a stop put to it ASAP.

Kids misbehave, sure, but they shouldn’t be terrors all the time.

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20 Normal: Lightly Pushing Boundaries

If you set a boundary with your kid, it’s pretty normal for them to try and push that. Did you tell them they can’t have a cookie until they’ve eaten dinner? Chances are, they’re going to eat a few mouthfuls and insist that basically counts as the whole dinner and they want that cookie. They might ask for more candy or toys than they’re allowed, or for a later bedtime than they’re supposed to have.

This is all normal, as long as you’re able to stick to your boundaries!

19 Normal: Minor Temper Tantrums

Think about it. How many times in adult life have you felt like crying because you didn’t get your way? Or because something didn’t go the way you wanted it to? A lot, but you probably held it in, because you’re a grown up who knows how to control those feelings.

Well, kids often have the same feelings. But they haven’t grown up yet. They have absolutely the same feelings but no idea how to regulate them, so they just let them loose. As long as these tantrums aren’t destructive, they’re pretty normal and definitely common.

18 Normal: Being 'Bossy'

It tends to be girls who are labelled as bossy. With boys, it just comes across as being confident. And it’s pretty okay for any gender, as long as it doesn’t get to the point of bullying another kid!

It’s really okay for a kid to be assertive and know exactly what they want. If they tend to take charge of directing games, or are very clear about what they like and don’t like, well, great. Obviously if they tend to be aggressive about it, it’s a problem – otherwise, it’s fine.

17 Normal: Having Strong Preferences

In the same vein, it’s fine for them to have strong preferences. Not every child will demurely accept every decision made on their behalf. If your child shows a strong preference between toys, food, and even people, this is fine. It means they’re comfortable enough to open up to you and tell you how they really feel.

Again, sometimes this can cross a line into rudeness, but as long as they learn how to be more polite down the road, be glad they’re honest!

16 Normal: Being A Little Food Fussy

How many adults do you know that like every food placed in front of them? I certainly don’t. Sometimes I’ll eat something just to be polite when I secretly don’t like it, but I certainly have a fairly long list of foods that I don’t enjoy; some I find outright vile.

If your child is a little food fussy–just a little–then this is fine. Knowing and recognizing a few foods that they don’t like is probably harmless. You don’t have to force them to eat everything.

15 Normal: Having No Concept Of Social Boundaries

Kids are still learning as they grow. They can’t be expected to suddenly become a person of their own and know absolutely everything right away – that's why they look for you to teach them. But you’re only human and so are they, so learning everything takes a while. That’s why social interactions can be a little awkward when they say something they shouldn’t have. Kids are the worst for being unintentionally insulting – but they are, and it’s often not their fault for being intentionally rude. They're just a kid and they'll learn eventually. 

14 Normal: Crying When They Don't Get Their Way

It goes back to kids not being able to regulate their emotions. It might seem spoiled to you when your kid cries because they didn’t get as much ice cream as they wanted, but you’re an adult who can hold that in and who has much bigger problems. Even if them crying over a problem seems ridiculous, it’s probably because they’re just used to expressing themselves without realizing they shouldn’t (and because they’re too young to have truly big worries yet).

13 Normal: Failing To Express Gratitude

This is one that’s pretty normal but they should be reminded: to express gratitude.

Sometimes, a kid will get a gift and get so excited over the toy that they forget to say thank you. Or maybe they’re really shy and the person giving them a new toy is a stranger, so they’re quiet in response. Don’t be hard on them and immediately assume they’re being rude unless it’s glaringly obvious that they are. Just remind them that saying ‘thank you’ is always polite!

12 Normal: Repeating Things They've Heard Or Seen

If you see your kid doing something that is too ‘adult’ for them, just remember they might have picked it up from you or someone else, and don’t realize that it’s inappropriate for their age. For example, many people have stories of their kids getting into their makeup and drawing all over their face with it. Some kids will also repeat curse words that they hear with no idea that it’s totally inappropriate for them to be saying that. Just firmly let them know!

11 Normal: Imitating Behaviors From Other Kids

They also might imitate behavior from other kids – sometimes it might be harmless and sometimes it might not. For example, if they start imitating someone in their class when they start school because it’s someone they admire, it might be as harmless as them wanting the same backpack and lunch box.

They should be taught not to imitate the kids who are setting bad examples, though. That’s how they get stuck in a cycle of bullying. But it’s normal for them to mimic a friend they admire.

10 Not So Normal: Being Violent Towards Other Kids

It’s not normal for a child to be violent towards other children. Yes, kids are going to get into disagreements over stupid things when they start socializing with people their own age (like some finding it more difficult to share than others or both wanting the same role in a pretend game). But it’s never okay or normal for their first reaction to be violence. If your child is being violent towards their peers, it’s definitely something to pay close attention to.

9 Not So Normal: Being Violent Towards Animals

You might think that your kid kicking at the cat they don’t like is funny, or that them stomping around on bugs is pretty normal. The truth is, cruelty to animals or taking pleasure in their pain is actually a serious warning sign. Psychology Today, among many other sources, has pointed out that being cruel to animals is actually a warning sign for that child becoming a violent adult and committing horrible crimes. Don’t let this indicator go unnoticed – look into it while they’re young.

8 Not So Normal: Temper Tantrums So Often They Disrupt Family Life

While temper tantrums can be fairly normal because kids can’t regulate their emotions very well, they shouldn’t be so extreme that they disrupt family life – especially as the child gets older and learns how it’s okay to behave and how it isn’t. If temper tantrums are being thrown every day or they’re especially aggressive or violent, it’s time to look to see if there might be a deeper issue.

Only you can tell if you think the tantrums are too much, but if they’re significantly disrupting your life then they probably are.

7 Not So Normal: Intentionally Damaging Things (Theirs Or Yours)

Kids don’t always take the best care of things. It happens. They don’t know how to be careful with things that might be a little fragile and they drop things all the time... It's to be expected. But there’s a difference between accidentally breaking things, drawing on the walls when they’re young enough not to know better, or damaging property deliberately, especially as they get older. If your child is intentionally breaking stuff, maybe during tantrums, it’s time to seriously address that behavior.

6 Not So Normal: Disregarding Boundaries And Rules Altogether

It’s normal and sometimes even cute when children start to test their boundaries. They want to eat more, stay up past bedtime, or stay out playing with their friends longer – it's all normal.

What isn’t normal is when they disregard those boundaries all together.

You have to be enforcing the boundaries they test, and if they disregard them all together, it suggests a blatant disregard for authority which is not going to fly later in life, in school, and with the law. Make sure they ultimately respect the rules, even the ones they don’t like.

5 Not So Normal: Being So Food Fussy, They Hardly Eat

Fussy eating? Normal. Fussy eating with kids? Even more normal.

What’s not so normal is kids who are so fussy that it limits their diet to the extreme. There have been cases of children who have eaten only one food for years because they didn’t want anything else and their parents just gave in, which is not healthy. This kind of action is going to cause serious problems later in life.

It’s hard to judge what’s normal and what’s not, but if your kid is eating barely anything you give them and demands something else, it’s probably getting to be a problem.

4 Not So Normal: Being Intentionally Rude Towards Others

Yes, kids have no social boundaries. It’s true. That’s why they’ll tell you outright if your new hair makes you look weird or if they think you have too much lipstick on that day. They often don’t mean to be rude, it’s just an observation that you don’t realize is negative.

But if they’re being extremely rude–such as calling someone a name to deliberately hurt their feelings–it’s vindictive behavior that needs to be stopped, not just them committing a social faux pas.

3 Not So Normal: When Bossy Becomes Bullying

It’s pretty normal for kids to boss others around, but this can often cross the line into bullying. While it’s fine for a kid to assert themselves, it’s not okay for them to put other children in frightening or uncomfortable positions. Too often, parents brush off the bullying coming from their own children, refusing to address it and turning it into something more endearing in their own minds (like just having a strong child). This isn’t okay. Any bullying needs to be addressed and stopped.

2 Not So Normal: Theft

When I was a kid, I accidentally stole my lunch. I sat it on top of my school bag without thinking to grab my wallet and then when I left the store, I forgot to pay and just took the bag with me, not noticing that my lunch had toppled inside.

Things like this happen. What’s not okay is when it’s deliberate and/or a pattern. This kind of behavior will turn into a pattern later in life and lead to them getting in serious trouble one day.

1 Not So Normal: Anything That Is Detrimental Or Extremely Harmful To Them Or Anyone Else

The basic line is just a little bit of observation, care, and common sense. If it’s a behavior that’s not quite right but ultimately harmless and just down to a child who’s young and hasn’t realized the rules of life yet, it’s probably normal. They can’t know everything right away. But if it’s a habit that’s causing them harm, excessive distress, or causing either of those things for anyone else, then it’s probably not so normal and time to address it before it turns into a real problem. Use your instinct!

Sources: Psychology Today

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