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Health & Parenting

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Why Your Child Acts That Way

Playing Pranks

Why they do it: For laughs, to feel powerful, and to get a reaction out of you, Huebner says.

What to do: Talk to children about when and how it's OK to play jokes and pranks, and how to tell if it goes too far.

Is the prank harmless or mean-spirited? Does it make someone laugh or distress them? Can your child tell the difference?

"Kids sometimes have a stronger sense of humor than they do a sense of consequences, so you might need to help them see how the other person may not be laughing," Borba says.

Pouring on the Drama

Why they do it: To get attention or because they're still learning how to handle their emotions. Some kids may be acting. Others "really feel things deeply, intensely. In the moment, they are devastated," Huebner says.

What to do: Don't reward it with your attention. Instead, talk about it and about other ways to handle emotions like anger, jealousy, or frustration. Be empathetic. "In the moment, telling her, ‘Hey, it's no big deal,' feels to her like you're minimizing the issue. Instead, say that you understand how hard the situation is, or that you see how frustrated she is."

Babyish Behavior

Why they do it: To get your attention, or to retreat from the expectations that come with their actual age. "If kids are feeling overwhelmed by a demand or a certain task, they might turn to baby talk or start saying ‘I can't,'" Huebner says. Some children also do this because of a major change or a trauma, Borba says.

What to do: Ask them to use their "regular" voice, Huebner says. It's usually a passing phase, so don't give it too much attention.

Ignoring You

Why they do it: They may be so involved in whatever they're doing that they honestly don't hear you, Huebner says. Or they may actively be tuning you out. That may not just be because they don't like what you're saying. It may be that they think you talk too much. "When we are making tons of commands, over and over, some kids can actually hear less," Borba says.

What to do: Get their attention before you speak. "Go near your child, touch their shoulder, so that you seize their attention," Huebner says. Then, once you're done talking, ask the child to repeat back what you said. Saying less, but more strategically, may help them heed you.

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