Why Do Kids Break House Rules And How To Redirect Them

Kids break the house rules quite often. Most of the times, kids understand us in the first time when we tell them what is expected of them. Yet, they test our limits. Why?

Every house has different rules. Could be; no running, no jumping on furniture, no yelling, no horse play, outdoor toys stay outside… But kids break these rules quite often, and it’s especially difficult for toddlers to comprehend these rules.

So, why does my toddler choose to disobey the rules and why does your toddler push the limits you have set? These limits could be throwing things at others, playing with the electrical outlets, our most recent one is spitting to express every emotion.

Kids learn by making decisions, and not by following directions. Thus it’s very difficult for them to listen to us, and it takes time and patience from our side to lead them to the path that is socially acceptable and safe for them.

Kids learn by making decisions, and not by following directions. Click To Tweet

Why do kids break house rules?

Experimenting is like an explanation to kids.

The most prominent reason why they choose to disobey the rules is that they are learning by experimenting! It’s truly their inner instinct to do things which we think unacceptable, unfortunately they can’t control it.

They know, they should not be doing it because you told them not to. But they do it anyway to know the WHY behind the directions. Knowing the reason why they shouldn’t do something makes a connection for them, between the action and result; without that their curiosity doesn’t subside.

Unfortunately, you can’t always let them experiment, with safety issues and socially unacceptable behaviors. You can only redirect them till they stop doing what they are doing. However, if you tell them why is it socially unacceptable or a safety issue, they are quicker to understand.

Kids love to flaunt what they learn

For us throwing things around is a nuisance, for kids it mesmerizing that when they let something go with a force, it falls on the floor. They are learning the law of gravity, without know it.

They are proud of the newly learned skills, so either they are practicing, or flaunting or expressing their happiness by using that skill. Yes, the skill of throwing things around too, it’s mesmerizing to them, they feel empowered. I know it sounds very odd, how can someone express their happiness by throwing, spitting, or kicking.

To understand your toddler’s point of view, think of something new you just learned and now you do that more often than usual. May be you just found an amazing recipe to a new dish, that you now make for every potluck. For me, it’s language skill. Whenever I learn a new word I use it a lot in random sentences, it just comes out naturally in my speech until I catch myself over using it.

Everything is fun and game.

When they misbehave and we raise our temper and voice; very common, isn’t it. Kids think that’s funny. It’s a game for them. They think it’s funny when you get angry and start talking to them in a higher pitch. It’s very frustrating for adults when someone laughs while they are angry. However, kids raise their pitch when they are excited and playful.

They understand that mom shouts when she’s angry, but a lot of times especially when they are feeling playful, and you raise your pitch, they think it’s because you are feeling playful too.

You are very important to kids, they want you to be with them ALWAYS.

Yet, some other times; it’s their way to gain your attention. They know what pushes your buttons very well, they have lived their entire life with you!

My son does this very often when he sees mom’s not listening or paying attention to him, he goes for his baby sister. He knows if he hurts her, I’ll drop everything and come to her rescue, to him he understands “if I hurt the baby, mom comes to me”.

This article on the psychology behind why kids don’t listen, explains why do kids want to share everything with you all the time.

How to redirect them to the right direction

You need to be very clear why can’t they do what they are doing.

Kids can’t read between the lines, like adults. Explanation and clarity are very important to make kids understand what you mean by a certain sentence. You can’t be too simple when it comes to choosing simple words for kids.

A solution to the above-stated issue of seeking attention is; explaining him, this is what I am doing, why is it important for me to do it, and how long will it be before I can come to him. Doesn’t work all the time, but that’s much better than simply telling him “I am coming”. To an adult “I am coming” means, I am busy with something I will come when it’s done. Kids take everything you say literally, so it’s very important to explain them, when are you going to come to them, if you can’t do it right away.

Kid’s can’t read between the lines, and you can never be too simple with your explanations. Click To Tweet

It’s very important for them to know the Why behind everything.

They need to know WHY do they need to follow the rule. Sometimes, it’s socially unacceptable, other times it’s a risk for them. Yet other times it’s a risk to the caregivers.

Kids as young as 2 Yrs old have the emotional and cognitive competence to understand all of the reasons. Yup, they even understand things that are socially unacceptable. But they often get excited and their inner instinct takes over what they should and should not do.

If you tell them, don’t touch the electric outlet because you will get an electric shock. You can’t see the shock, but it will hurt you very badly, and it’s very dangerous, which is the reason why mom never plays with it. They are more likely to believe you with this explanation, than if you tell them, you’ll get a boo-boo if you touch the electric outlet, don’t do it. Or worse, don’t tell them the why at all.

There is nothing more frustrating to a child when we don’t tell them why shouldn’t they do it, and just keep repeating what we don’t want them to do. Trust me I have tried it unconsciously and was baffled at my toddler for not listening when the truth is I wasn’t speaking correctly.

Be Calm and be Consistent with your expectations.

This is the key, so very often we are not clear, and sometimes the kids can’t process the what we tell them even when we state it clearly, at these times we need to show them physically what is expected.

I had an issue with my son knowing that spitting is for the sink, but he couldn’t comprehend it completely as to what is he supposed to do. Until I started taking him to the sink every time he spits to express his anger. With just 2 incidences he learned, that he can’t spit all the time, he will have to come to the sink to spit, and that reduced his spitting habit drastically.

It’s very important to be consistent, and not bribe them in public.

I always have this temptation to just give my son what ever he wants in public, to end his crying and screaming. I am sure you have this temptation too. But the issue with that is kids get a hint that it’s a good thing to misbehave in public because you get a reward for that. And, we parents say kids manipulate us, they know they’ll get what they want in public so they misbehave in public. Not true. We gave them this idea. If we are consistent with them in our expectations in public too, it’ll probably just take one or two times of going through the entire tantrum, until they understand the expectations remain the same, irrespective of the place.

Right things should be done because they are Right!

In our house, we don’t have punishments or rewards. You are supposed to do the right actions, because they are right, not because right actions will fetch you a reward. Similarly, by doing the wrong thing you won’t be punished. We will keep redirecting ourselves and kids until we do the things in the right way.
I strongly think rewards and punishments are short lived, and to make something permanent, the actions should be done with an innate desire.

I understand redirecting kids is hard work, and sometimes it feels like the only talks you have all day with your kids is can’t do this or that. But believe me it’s all worth it, and you will be able to connect the dots in hind sight.

How does your child misbehave? Let’s talk in the comments below and find a solution.

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