What is acting out?
People say a child is “acting out” when they exhibit unrestrained and
improper actions. The behavior is usually caused by suppressed or denied
feelings or emotions.
Acting out reduces stress. It’s often a child’s attempt to show otherwise
hidden emotions. Acting out may include fighting, throwing fits, or stealing.
In severe cases, acting out is associated with antisocial behavior and other
personality disorders in teenagers and younger children.
causes acting out?
The psychological factors that prompt acting out are often complicated.
Common issues that cause a child to act out include:
Children often seek attention from parents, peers, or other authority
figures. If they don’t get the positive attention they want, they will act
out to get negative attention.
- Desire for
Children often feel powerless. They’re usually unable to control their
situations and environment. They act out because it allows them to feel in
control of their actions.
Children who believe they’re unable to perform a task may act out to
distract a parent.
Personality disorders that lead to acting out are more common in adults and
older teenagers. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline
personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic
personality disorder. In children, attention deficit hyperactive disorder
(ADHD) may be associated with acting out.
are the symptoms of acting out?
There are several common signs that a child is acting out. If these signs
last more than six months or become progressively inappropriate, you should
consult a doctor.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, warning signs from
children can include the following behaviors:
- damaging or vandalizing property
- harming or threatening other people or pets
- truancy or poor academic performance
- smoking, drinking alcohol, or drug abuse
- early sexual activity
- frequent tantrums and arguments
- consistent anger and rebellion against authority
to call the doctor
Whether to speak with a doctor about your child’s acting out is a decision
you should base on your personal observations. If you believe the symptoms are
unmanageable or getting worse, you should consult a doctor.
You should also talk to a doctor if you think your child’s behavior is
having lasting negative effects on your family or on the child’s development.
Acting out can cause strife and disorder in your family. If you’re overwhelmed
and disturbed by your child’s acting out, you should consider speaking with a
is acting out treated?
Your child will rarely need medications to address acting out. Medications
may cause your child to be more sedate and less prone to outbursts. They do not
address the underlying cause of the behavior.
In most cases, your best chance at adjusting your child’s improper behavior
is to encourage better behavior. Here are some guidelines for responding when
your child acts out:
- Maintain clear
Set clear and detailed expectations for your child. Be consistent with
your rules and the consequences for breaking those rules. If you remain
firm and organized with what you expect from your children, they will be
less likely to act out.
- Keep it positive:
positive parenting approach focuses on rewarding children when they are
being good. Rewards can be as simple as paying your child extra attention,
praise, or even a small token. This will reinforce the child’s acceptable
behavior. You should avoid giving your attention to a child acting out.
This will only teach the child that if they want your attention, they just
need to misbehave.
- Stay cool: Taking the time to
acknowledge and reduce your own stress signals will help you cope with a
challenging child. If you are calm, even when your child is acting out, you
will be in a better position to react properly to their behavior.
- Don’t take
Do not personalize your child’s actions. Most of the time, your child’s
actions are not a direct attack against you. Your child is just using this
behavior, sometimes subconsciously, to deal with a sensitive issue. If you
are emotionally hurt by your child’s actions, you may be too upset to
discover the real reason behind your child’s behavior.
children fight, throw fits, steal, or engage in other unrestrained and improper
behavior, people refer to it as “acting out.” Reasons for this behavior are
complicated, but it’s usually the result of a child’s suppressed emotions and
out can stem from a child’s underlying attention issues, power struggles, lack
of self-esteem, or personality disorders. Maintaining clear expectations using
a calm, positive approach can go a long way to defusing the situation. If you
feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional.