Why kids act out

By Julie Rawe

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 know how to put into words. 

Here are common reasons why kids act out:

  • Anxiety: Kids often act up 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 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

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    About the author

    About the author

    Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.