Recently, two of my older children have been quite challenging and causing me to get five more strands of gray hair! Boy, was I wrong to think that as children get older, it becomes easier as a parent. Physically maybe, but mentally, watch out!
However, I do realize that when my children bother me, I need to pause to take a look at the situation and analyze the cause of their misbehavior. From my experience, there is always a reason kids act up, and it is up to the parents to find the cause. Here are my 10 top reasons children misbehave:
1. WHEN CHILDREN LACK IHSAN
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of teaching our children Ihsan. Ihsan means having excellence in worship. It is when a Muslim worships Allah (SWT) as if they see Him, and although they cannot see Him, they undoubtedly believe that He is constantly watching over them.
If our children are taught this love for Allah (SWT) and that His presence is with us at all times, then it cuts out much of the monitoring that parents feel the need to do. When children have Ihsan, they are aware that they are never alone, that they have two angels writing down all their actions, and that Allah is always watching. This will help them to stay away from common misbehavior, such as lying, sneaking, stealing etc.
2. WHEN CHILDREN ARE BORED
Another significant factor in children misbehaving is boredom. I remember my mother saying to us often, “Idle hands is the devil’s workshop” if you look at the kids who cause the most mischief, it’s usually the ones who have too much time on their hands!
When kids are bored, they become troublesome and get up to no good. It is important that parents don’t entertain their children, but provide them with goals and tasks to accomplish, and I don’t mean in the form of TV, phones, tablets and computers only. Children need their minds stimulated and to perform a task from start to finish. If they can to do this for a greater good, even better! This could include volunteering their time to tutor a friend’s child in Quran, volunteering time at the masjid by fixing or mending something broken, or making something from scratch for someone special.
3. WHEN CHILDREN LACK HOBBIES AND GOALS
When my 12-year-old child was acting up the other day, you know the mood swings and confusion of the tween years (sigh), I sat her down and asked her about her hobbies. She had to think for a minute, but then mentioned three or four hobbies she would love to try. Nowadays children don’t know their hobbies so parents need to help them realize what they enjoy doing. I blame this a lot on children being too technology-driven, which obliterates deep thinking. When I was growing up, having hobbies was super important; it’s what made you, you!
My daughter mentioned that she liked handcrafts (sewing, knitting, crocheting), cooking and reading. I thought to myself, “Did the first two have to be my least favorite?” but I didn’t let that deter us. Instead, I took my daughter to a store to purchase an easy pattern and some fabric, as well as some knitting needles and wool. I taught her what I knew, but then I found video tutorials to show her the rest. We also searched for easy baking recipes to try out. She now does this in her spare time or when she is feeling bored.
4. WHEN CHILDREN LACK STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE
As a family, we relocated a lot. It was tough but also an incredible experience. Unfortunately, when children get older, it becomes difficult on them to feel secure without structure or a routine, and they misbehave. However, no matter how much we moved, I tried to ensure that certain routines stayed intact. I know how kids can get ornery and moody when they don’t know what to expect next.
For those times that maintaining a structure or routine just can’t be achieved, you’ll have to be extra patient with your children and realize that they may be feeling insecure. Sometimes children do not communicate their feelings into words, but by their misbehavior, so look out for those signs!
5. WHEN CHILDREN’S NEEDS ARE NEGLECTED
Our kids have needs just like everyone else, but I am not talking about their physical needs alone. Sometimes we think that if our kids are well fed, well dressed, have cutely decorated rooms, every toy they can dream of, and the latest technology at their fingertips, they should be grateful and content. Well, our kids are not robots, but real people with emotions and feelings. We need to talk to them and see what’s going on inside their hearts and minds. We need to listen to their stories and funny moments and keep asking questions about their wellbeing.
Sometimes when my seven-year-old is moody and challenging, I drop what I am doing and call her to my lap. I hug her as long as she wants and allow her to stay until she’s ready to leave, no words exchanged. She will be fine for days after I do that. Some kids are more emotional than others and may not even realize what they need. Hugs are an awesome way to help children feel more secure and loved. Also, don’t be afraid to tell your kids “I love you,” they need to hear those words every day. It is important not to neglect a child’s emotional needs, in place of a child’s material wants.
6. WHEN CHILDREN DON’T FEEL GOOD
You know those bad days you have? Those days when your temper’s short because you’re upset, frustrated or feel tired and grumpy? Well, our kids have those bad days too. Maybe their best friend was nasty, or they were teased at school, or they scored bad on a test. Maybe they have a headache, feel achy, or feel tired and lethargic.
Children experience the same frustrations and fierce emotions that adults feel, so why do we hold them accountable to a higher standard when they are just human? Rather work on teaching your children how to channel their bad feelings in a better way. I have used moments like these to teach my kids to make dhikr and wudhu, to pray or do some exercise, even take a warm shower to clear their head.
7. WHEN CHILDREN ARE OVERSTIMULATED OR OVERWHELMED
There have been days when my kids watch TV or use the computer more than usual. On those days, I notice a big difference in their behavior. They seem more lethargic, irritable and aggressive. I usually feel the need to send them outside or to do some exercise. It might appear that letting our kids use screens for hours on end is a life saver, but it makes them unable to concentrate for long, behave more aggressive, show irritability, and become lethargic.
Our children can also get overwhelmed with school work, tests, our high expectations, and too much extracurricular activities. We think we’re “enriching” our kids by sending them for extra tutoring or adding events to their already long day at school. We need to remember to let our children be kids, and give them time to play and wind-down. Children who are tired, overstimulated and overwhelmed, misbehave a lot.
8. WHEN CHILDREN TAKE MORE THAN THEY GIVE
We want our kids to have everything. We buy them most things they want and we always aim to see them happy. Allah SWT rewards us for this, no doubt, but be careful of overindulging your kids and spoiling them too much. They need to learn to give as well as receive, or they can become selfish and self-absorbed, which causes misbehavior.
We have to teach our kids to give more charity, especially by their actions. We can encourage them to give more by, putting some pocket money regularly in the masjid donation box on Fridays, letting them help out the neighbor with their groceries, hold the door open for people at a store, or pick up trash at their masjid or school. Children should learn to share and give from the things they love; it’s Sunnah! And it will help them get less attached to this world. This is a highly valuable lesson but sadly lacking in many kids upbringing today.
9. WHEN CHILDREN DON’T LEARN RESPONSIBILITY
Our children are not technically little prince and princesses; they need to share in the day-to-day responsibility of running the household and picking up after themselves. I emphasize the need for kids to help out in the kitchen and yard, by taking out the trash, doing a load of laundry, washing the dishes, packing and sorting clothes, etc.
My kids help out a lot inside and outside our home, and I’ve noticed how it helps them learn responsibility. When children see how something operates, they learn to appreciate those things more. I almost, always take my kids to the store with me to help me grocery shop, check prices, unpack and repack the cart, etc. Keeping kids busy with responsibilities makes them feel good about life, happier inside, and less likely to misbehave.
10. WHEN CHILDREN IMITATE BAD BEHAVIOR
Sometimes we wonder, where do our children pick up bad behavior? Well, we need to take a hard look at our behavior as parents first. Then, we should look towards older siblings, friends and extended family members. We should be aware of our children’s environment at school and elsewhere. Our kids mimic what they see. So if you’re prone to white lies, your kids will not distinguish the type of lie, they’ll just lie. If you yell and argue a lot, so will they.
If you notice misbehavior that doesn’t stem from your home, then take a look at who and what you allow your kids to be exposed to outside. If children mingle with people who have bad mannerisms, or they are in environments that are less than ideal, you can expect them to adopt what they see, and you would have to take that into account.
My husband or I always know who our kids are with and where they are going at all times. So if we see misbehavior, we can pinpoint its source, and either change the situation or talk to our kids about it. Remember with kids, what you permit, you promote.