Quick tips to help kids who are acting out
- Quick tip 1Use when-then sentences.Use when-then sentences.
Be clear about how you expect kids to behave. Use when-then sentences, like “When you speak to me in a calmer voice, then we can talk this through.” This clearly explains what you expect — and the positive outcome that will happen.
Angry outbursts may seem to come out of nowhere. But kids often act out because they’re struggling with something they don’t understand or don’t know how to put into words.
Here are common reasons why kids act out:
- Anxiety: Kids often act out when they’re anxious about big changes, like a new baby at home or a death in the family. Smaller things can cause anxiety too, like a test or trouble with a friend.
- Changes in routine: Kids may respond in anger if they feel like they don’t know what’s happening now or what will happen next.
- Trouble with self-control: Some kids act out because they struggle to control their impulses. This makes it hard for them to follow directions.
- Trouble with a school subject: When kids refuse to do schoolwork, that could be their way of saying “I don’t know how to do this.”
Kids who act out at the end of the day may have spent the school day trying to hide their struggles. They act out to show they’re struggling and can’t find the right words to use.
Learn more about why some kids fall apart after school.
What acting out looks like
How acting out is different from being defiant
Talking with your child’s teachers
Tell us what interests you
About the author
About the author
Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.
Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.