Disciplining Kids: When Our Child’s Bad Behavior Is Really Good

25 Dec 2014

Patient mother and naughty sonI am not sure why but we often put a negative spin on our children’s behavior. One such example always come to mind: the child who throws their food or toys off their highchair is being naughty or “just doing it to make us mad.”

In college I learned something that has stayed with me throughout my whole professional and personal life. My child psychology professor told our class that children are not being “bad” when they throw toys and food off from their highchair. They are usually doing it because they are just learning how their body is separate from objects. They are fascinated by the fact that a rubber duckie or a handful of Cheerios are not a part of their body and they can throw it down. Just like they are enthralled with the fact that their fingers are always attached to their hands.

Babies also like to throw things off of their high chair because they are learning about cause and effect. If I throw my Cheerios then it barely makes a sound. If I throw my cup it makes a crash. If I throw my rubber duckie it bounces. They never seem to tire from this exploratory play and they delight in it over and over again.

Part of the cause and effect relationship is learning how their behavior has an effect on the people in their lives. They are learning that they can influence and manipulate the world around them. Babies love to see how their parents react. They are thinking: “This is so cool if I throw my toy, then my mother will turn around and put it back on my tray! If I do it even more, look, my mom’s face turns red and she gets mad! This is a great game!”

Babies will also throw toys from their chair to signal that they have had enough. They are done being confined and want their freedom.

I am forever grateful to my professor who taught me to dig deep when it comes to observing and reacting to children’s behavior. It has been the basis of all my parenting classes. I love learning why kids behave the way they do at every stage of growth. They are never being “bad,” they are usually just acting in a developmentally appropriate manner.

When we know the real reasons why kids behave the way they do, it is easier for us to discipline our kids from a more loving and calm place instead of an angry one. It is the one of the keys to maintaining a healthy, peaceful home.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.