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December 7, 2016


Two weeks ago, I visited a friend who has two children. During my one-hour stay, the children didn’t stop fighting, screaming and breaking their toys. Would this be considered a blatant example of ‘child misbehaviour’? Probably yes. Misbehaviour is usually defined as ‘‘behaviour which is socially unacceptable and inappropriate’’. Many researchers over the years have identified various contributing factors that explain why children misbehave. Here are the main reasons for children’s misbehaviour in summary:

1. Attention seeking

Most children are egocentric; they believe the whole world revolves around them. To a child, any kind of attention is better than no attention. Children who feel neglected may even try to get in trouble to be noticed.

2. Power/Independence seeking

Many children feel that they are liberal to do anything they want to and no one can dictate them for anything which they don’t want to. They seek a kind of ‘adult independence’; i.e. they want to iron the clothes or cut the bread.

3. Just curious

Children often display inappropriate behaviour because they are naturally curious about the world around them. They like experimenting with and trying new things, some of which parents may not approve of; i.e. ‘What will happen if I write on the wall with my marker?’

4. Sense of belonging

Children need to feel that they belong to and are accepted by a group; be it a family, a class or a group of friends. When they feel like an ‘outcast’, it’s very likely that they will engage in negative behaviours.



5. Feeling unwell

Children need at least 10 hours of sleep each night, healthy meals and regular exercise. Without these essentials they may be hard to get along with. Most discipline problems occur around early morning hours and late afternoons, when children are hungry and tired.

6. Strict parenting

Children may feel unconfident, inadequate, unloved, disappointed and discouraged as a result of authoritative or perfectionist parenting style; i.e. parents who impose a rigid structure of rules, continually provide criticism, have very high expectations of their children’s academic performance and aren’t happy with mistakes. The children of these types of parents are most likely to develop serious behaviour difficulties.

7. Testing their parents’ discipline

Children want to know that their parents truly mean what they say, so be firm about what is important to you and the behaviours you value. If you have agreed with your child that watching TV is not allowed after 7 p.m and your child disobeys, make sure you apply the discipline method you both have agreed to.

8. Imitating others

Children tend a lot to imitate behaviour they see on TV, at school, on social media or at home from their parents.

9. Genetics

In the end it’s all about genetics. Were you naughty and mischievous as a child? If so, then most probably these ‘behavioural genes’ have been passed on to your child.

The key point is to understand that many behaviours that we consider inappropriate are simply part of child development. Things like tantrums are actually developmentally appropriate behaviours for children and are a part of growing up.


AU, S. & STAVINOHA, P.L., 2015. Stress-free discipline: simple strategies for handling common behaviour problems. USA: Amacom

DREIKURS, R., CASSEL, P., & DREIKURS, F.E., 2004. Discipline without tears: How to reduce conflict and establish cooperation in the classroom. New Jersey: John Wikey & Sons.

RICHARDSON, D., n.d. Why children misbehave. Oklahoma State University.

Category: articles



About the author



Eva Sakellaridi is an education consultant and a researcher at the University College London (UCL), Institute of Education (IoE). She has a BA in English Language and Literature (2006), a Diploma in TESOL (2010) and a Certificate in Educational Psychology (2011). She also holds a MA in Education with Distinction from the University of Bath (2014). Among Eva’s main broad fields of interest are character education, educational psychology, school leadership and school improvement. Prior to becoming an education consultant, Eva worked in a range of public and private, preschool, primary and secondary educational organisations, universities and charities in a variety of capacities including classroom teacher, remedial teacher, student mentor, education programme manager and deputy school manager. Throughout her teaching career, she has observed that most children acquire academic skills more effortlessly and quicker compared to lifelong skills and has witnessed many and various cases of parental anxiety and concern about children’s character development and learning. As a result, Eva has always used scientific research to explore and personalise old and new pedagogical methods to empower both children and their parents.

Penelope’s Loom


Welcome to “Penelope’s Loom”! This is the name of our collection of educational articles that includes only research-based information on education, educational psychology and parenting, taken from sources such as scientific publications, reviews of research and government reports. Our aim is to offer our readers objective, authentic, scholarly information in a clear and simple way. If you would like to learn more about any of the themes tackled in our articles, feel free to contact us at and we will send you an e-copy of the references and/or further readings.


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