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Don’t Panic: Your Kid’s “Bad” Behavior Is Probably Normal!

As a parent, it’s so tempting to overanalyze every choice we make and try to figure out whether or not we’ve messed up our kids. It’s also tempting to overanalyze our children in an attempt to either put them IN the box of “normal” or out of it.

In reality, there’s no such thing as normal. There is only “typical” or “common,” and you would probably be surprised by what is common amongst kids.

Here are some of the most common behaviors we worry about in our children that are TOTALLY NORMAL.

– Most kids start to test out the act of lying around age 2 or 3 for the first time, but it generally continues until age 6 or 7. This is a natural way for them to figure out where their boundaries are, how much power they have by using their voice, and whether or not the truth is important.

– When we tell our kids no to toys or snacks that they really want, it’s common for them to try sneaking them a few times. If they continue this behavior, it could be a sign of other things, but it’s completely normal for them to try it a time or two.

– Most kids in their pre-adolescent years experiencing a return of tantrum-type behaviors. They might not be throwing themselves on the ground, kicking and screaming, (or maybe they are) but they are probably yelling and crying for almost no reason. Their emotions are as out of control as a toddler’s.

– This probably goes without saying, but teenagers ALL roll their eyes at their parents, groan in frustration, and sigh more than a leaky tire. The surprising thing is that the eye-rolling and sighing starts in about mid-elementary school, which seems entirely too early. It’s so common.

– Although kids generally stop trying to lie to their parents around ages 6 or 7, they usually begin to lie to their friends around this time due to a growing understanding of peer culture and social construct.

– There is often a return of children lying to their parents around age 14 or 15 when they start high school. Developmentally, they’ve reached the age of puberty, and their biological clock is trying to get them to separate from their parents. Their brains are hard-wired around this age to start moving toward independence, much like a baby bird is hard-wired to leave the nest around a certain age. We think it shouldn’t start until they’re seniors in high school, but it actually starts with puberty.

– Almost every child I’ve ever met has become incredibly superficial around the second or third year of elementary school. They only want certain styles of clothing, certain snacks for their lunch, and certain event places to host their birthday parties. As they grow, the superficiality leans more heavily toward expensive brands. Although children may not really care about the specifics of what they’re wearing, eating, or doing, when they’re in public amongst same-aged peers, they will care very much.

– Around late elementary school to early middle school, kids start to sexualize a lot of the world around them. For one, they’ve hit puberty (or are about to), but for two, they’re hearing a lot of things at school that make them curious. You might notice an interest in skimpier clothing or more sexualized dancing. Limited access to media significantly helps this problem, but even in the generations before us that had no access to media, this was still a developmental milestone around this age.

– Sometimes our families grow, whether by birth, adoption, marriage, or simply a rearranging of family structures, but that’s really hard for kids. If your child seems to get angry with their new sibling for absolutely nothing at all, that’s totally normal. It’s an outward manifestation of the stress they’re feeling on the inside.

– At literally EVERY AGE (probably until they turn twenty-one), kids want to be older than they are. When they’re young, they use fantasy play to pretend that they’re older. They draw about it, write about it, and play with their siblings in ways that discuss it. When they move into preteen years, they still have this fantasy, but often start to act in ways that they think will make them seem older, as well. By the teen years, they’re not only reaching “up” in social situations to feel older, but they’re also making choices that will age them faster than they should be aging.


Obviously, this is not an all-encompassing list of behaviors that our children can have, but it is some of the most commonly worried about.

We don’t need to accept these behaviors as okay–they’re still unhealthy and show us that our kids need guidance–but we can rest in the peace that other families are going through the exact same problems.

They’re probably not screwing their kids up, and neither are we.

What have your kids gone through that you used to worry about but have since realized is normal?

Don’t Panic: Your Kid’s “Bad” Behavior Is Probably Normal!

W. R. Cummings

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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2019). Don’t Panic: Your Kid’s “Bad” Behavior Is Probably Normal!. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Jul 2019
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