Thoughtful Parenting: When kids aren’t being bad |

Thoughtful Parenting: When kids aren’t being bad

Deirdre Pepin
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

It takes conscious work to raise good, respectful and productive children. To treat kids fairly and set them up for success, it also takes knowledge of their developmental capacities and limits. As we spend time with kids this summer, be aware of reasons behind children’s undesirable behaviors instead of assuming they’re simply being bad.


The regions of the brain involved in self-control aren’t mature until the end of adolescence. Most parents assume children should be able to control impulses earlier than experts say. Remembering kids can’t resist temptations because their brains aren’t fully developed helps us react appropriately.

Inconsistent limits

Inconsistent limits invite resentment, whining and crying. Kids want to know what to expect. Be consistent about restrictions and privileges. Clear boundaries and routines drive positive behavior.


Our schedules are typically jam packed. When we book our kids for too much activity and stimulation, they can experience a cumulative stress reaction. Kids need downtime as much as they need uptime. Quiet or unstructured time brings balance and increases desirable behavior.


Kids have a developmental need for movement and play. Establish times and places for kids to run, jump and play. Instead of scolding children for having energy, promote different ways to use it.

Kids connect through laughter and excitement. When kids ask us to play, it’s easy to get annoyed if we’re busy with other responsibilities. Building playtime into the day helps satiate kids so we all feel more accomplished and less frustrated.

Core conditions

When kids are hungry, tired, dehydrated, over-sugared or sick, they’re less likely to manage their behavior. They’re too young to understand how their bodies’ conditions affect their emotions. Understanding children’s core conditions can help us respond empathetically and less critically.

Emotion transfer

It takes milliseconds for emotions like joy, sadness, fear and anger to pass from person to person. Transfer of emotions can occur without either person knowing it happened. Kids pick up on the stress and fear parents carry and emulate and adopt these dispositions. Practice gratitude, peace and contentment as a stable, grounding emotional model for children.


We want children to be authentic, independent, capable and confident. Kids are developmentally wired to resist authority and become more autonomous. Celebrate moments when children make their own decisions and execute their own plans. Even if you don’t like their choices, they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing — growing up.

Horizons Specialized Services works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities. Deirdre Pepin is the resource development and public relations coordinator. If your child is younger than 3, and you have questions about his or her development, contact Child and Family Service Coordinator Michelle Hoza at 970-871-8558.

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