Why some kids clown around in class

By The Understood Team

Why some kids play the “class clown”, kid goofing off in class in front of classmates

At a glance

  • There are lots of reasons kids often clown around in class.

  • Kids who act up in class usually don’t mean to be difficult.

  • Clownish behavior can create problems both in class and with a child’s social life.

There are always kids at school who clown around a lot and want to be the center of attention. They crack jokes, make faces, and show off, mainly to impress other kids. They goof around at lunch, at recess, or in the hallways between classes.

But some kids behave this way during class, even if it gets them in trouble or turns off their classmates.

Learn what causes frequent “class clown” behavior, and what can help.

What class clown behavior means

Kids can clown around in class in lots of different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Giving silly answers when the teacher calls on them
  • Wearing clothes that are extremely bold, funny, or even offensive
  • Making a noisy entrance when they come into the classroom
  • Dropping things and making a big deal out of picking them up

When kids act this way, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a “problem.” But the behavior often creates problems. Goofing around all the time can disrupt class and annoy the teacher. It can lead to being disciplined. It can impact grades, too.

Acting this way can also affect a child’s social life. Sometimes, other kids think it’s funny and want to be around the child who goofs around all the time. But often, kids are turned off by clownish behavior and think it’s weird or annoying, not funny.

Why kids play class clown

There are lots of reasons kids clown around like this. If they’re getting a positive response, they might like the attention. That’s not always the case, though.

Kids who have trouble with self-control may have a hard time resisting the urge to do or say something they think is funny. That’s often true of kids with ADHD. If the thought enters their mind, they act on it without stopping to think about the consequences.

Sometimes kids act up in class not to draw attention to themselves, but to draw attention away from things they’re struggling with. They clown around to hide challenges. Here are some examples of things kids might try to cover up:

Kids aren’t usually trying to be difficult. They’re just trying to hide their weak spots. It’s better to loudly burst through the classroom door and have everyone laugh than to be laughed at because you lose track of time and are always late. Clowning around is often a way to get ahead of criticism.

The ADHD connection

There’s a unique relationship between having ADHD and playing the clown. Being funny, theatrical, and larger than life can be a natural benefit of ADHD for many kids. Playing the role of entertainer is a way to use a strength to make up for challenges.

If it’s done at the right time in the right way, this behavior can be a social plus. Kids often find their peers with ADHD to be truly funny — and fun to be around.

But kids with ADHD run the risk of overdoing it or being goofy at the wrong time and place — like in the middle of class. When that happens, they may get negative attention. And that can drive other kids away.

What you can do

When kids act up to get attention, there are ways you can work on the behavior.

  • Keep an eye on the behavior and look for patterns.
  • Share what you’re seeing — parents and teachers need to work together.
  • Give positive praise.
  • Help improve self-esteem.

Also, kids sometimes need help understanding the consequences of their behavior. They may not see the effect their clowning around is having. Or they may feel embarrassed by their behavior, but not know what to do instead.

During a calm time, point out how others are reacting and talk about another way to act. You may need to have a few shorter conversations instead of just one. Space them out so the child has time to think about what you’ve said and how to do things differently.

When kids often act up in class, it’s important to have empathy as you try to understand the behavior. For teachers, get tips for responding with empathy to students. For parents, learn how to show empathy if your child is struggling.

Key takeaways

  • Parents and teachers need to share information about what they’re seeing.

  • Some kids need help understanding the consequences of frequent clowning around.

  • It’s important to show empathy as you try to understand and manage the behavior.

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    About the author

    About the author

    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.