Presence & Purpose


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The #1 Reason Kids Misbehave

Understand your child’s behavior.

Most often, children do not “misbehave” just to make parents mad or give them a hard time.  Negative behaviors are often the result of wanting attention from their parents or a sense that needs are not being met.  Kids know how to get attention in anyway possible, even if that means seeking negative attention. They may have learned from past interactions that doing something that you find annoying gets a reaction from you, and they want an interaction.  Negative attention is better than no attention.

All people, including kids, seek a sense of belonging and connection.  In addition to their physical needs, they have emotional needs. People want to feel loved, they want to spend real quality time with people who are important to them.  When children lack these things, I can guarantee you will see an escalation of negative behaviors in an attempt to get attention from you, even though they’re not aware that that is what they’re doing.

Gary Chapman, Author of the Five Love Languages books, wrote that,  “I liked the metaphor the first time I heard it: ‘Inside every child is an ‘emotional tank’ waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank.’”   As I listened, I thought of the hundreds of parents who had paraded the misdeeds of their children through my office. I had never visualized an empty love tank inside those children, but I had certainly seen the results of it. Their misbehavior was a misguided search for the love they did not feel. They were seeking love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways.”

Human behavior is not random; it’s goal oriented.

I encourage you to keep this in mind when thinking about your child and their behavior.  Be aware of how the things you say or do can trigger behaviors in your kids.


One very important strategy to help prevent “misbehavior”:

Fill your child’s love tank!  Set aside a time every single day to spend uninterrupted time with each child individually, and really make a meaningful connection.  This doesn’t have to be hours each day, it can be as simple as a couple of purposeful minutes, several times a day. Some of the most beneficial times that I’ve found to make a meaningful connection with my kids are:

  1. First thing in the morning - depending on your child’s age they may want read a book, snuggle before they get out of bed, make breakfast together, etc.

  2. When they get home from school or an outing - let them know you are happy to see them, tell a story, listen to music, play outside for a few minutes, draw, go for a walk, let your child choose an activity.

  3. Before bed - make bathtime a time for connection and play with them, read, have a tickle fight, play a game, do a puzzle together, tell jokes.

Put your phone down, forget about your to-do list, and let your child see that they have your undivided attention.  By doing this regularly, you will not only see a decline in unwanted behaviors, but more importantly, your relationship with your child will strengthen and your child will feel more secure.  After all, the reason most people have children is to build a relationship with them. Taking the time out of our busy lives to make a heartfelt connection can be one of most important thing you can do for your child and your family.

Check out my other blog post for 3 other simple strategies to help prevent “misbehavior.”


Matt Hendon