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Unexplained Bad or Odd Behavior From Kids

Kids can be mysterious creatures.  And sometimes, their behavior can be an even bigger mystery.  Most of the time, we as parents can figure out what’s going on when our kids act up.  If you are an in-tune kind of parent, you are probably going to get it right most of the time.  But all parents can miss things.  Does your child have some kind of unknown medical issue?  Is something in their social life amiss?  Have you as their parent done something that has turned their life upside down?  Take a look at these three places to find answers to your questions about unexplained bad or odd behavior from kids.

Your Doctor’s Office –

How Do You Explain Kids Odd Behavior
Explaining Kids Odd Behavior

Perhaps something neurological is going wrong, or your child has pain or discomfort they can’t easily  explain.   Maybe there’s a vision, hearing, or learning disorder that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  Perhaps they have a food or environmental allergy that needs to be treated.  I know my own kids have sometimes lived with physical discomfort or pain that they didn’t tell me about until the end of the day.

I also like to recommend following something I learned from a day care provider.  Are they hungry, hot or cold, sick, or tired?  Any one of those things can be happening and you may not first think of those reasons.  These might not be obvious if you are just responding to the behaviors in the moment.  Take a step back and think a little bit like a detective to determine if these could be a cause for problematic behavior.

Kids Social Environment –

Are other kids in their friend group having similar problems (bucking curfew, not complying with school or parents, drinking, promiscuity, etc)?  Perhaps they have been sucked into a negative social group with a strong influence or they have begun taking part in drug or drinking activities.  Maybe one of their friends has a lenient parent. They might be getting bullied at school and have been threatened not to tell.

Kids usually don’t want to get into trouble no matter what they’re doing.  And some kids will lie even to avoid trouble even when they also know lying is wrong.  Even if they know they are doing something you wouldn’t approve of, they might feel like going against their friends would be worse than going against or possibly hurting you.  Step up your supervision, start asking other parents for observations and info, and maybe even visit the school.

Look In The Mirror –

That’s right, sometimes it is the parent’s fault.  I don’t write this blog to sit back and wag my finger at parents every day, but sometimes parents really do things in their own best interest instead of what the kids need.  Even pretty good parents do it once in a while.  I realize that this might be upsetting to some of you reading this, but I’m willing to take the risk and point out the elephant in the living room.  I don’t mean to offend, simply point out some truths to family dynamics and kids emotions.

Moving lots of times, divorce and remarriage with step-siblings, high levels of conflict in the home or with extended family, awareness or perpetration of any kind of abuse, even parents coming home from long stressful jobs with little time for the kids – these types of things in the family environment can make kids act out or behave in odd ways.  After a while, the stress all adds up and kids show it.

I understand, parents are often reluctant to believe that something they thought would be OK may in fact be part of the problem. I don’t like to think my kids are more cranky just because I’m more cranky, but often that is absolutely the case.  I shouldn’t be surprised because it seems like an obvious outcome to the situation I set up.  When I calm down, lo and behold, the whole tone of the house changes.  I take responsibility for my part of  the problem, things improve, and I have to swallow my pride.

I realize my personal example pales in comparison to child abuse or the stress of adjusting to a blended family.  But it illustrates the same parental feeling of not wanting to admit you did something that had a negative impact on your kids.  If you can do something to change a painful circumstance for a child, you may very well see the unwanted behavior change for the better.

More Answers From Parent Readers

There may certainly be other places to look for answers about unexplained behavior.  If you have other ideas for what can cause unexplained difficult behavior, please share.  The whole idea is to make this a place to contribute and learn for everyone.  Your thoughts…?

Unexplained Bad or Odd Behavior From Kids

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Unexplained Bad or Odd Behavior From Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Aug 2009
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