Why Does My Child Behave for Caregivers But Not for Me?


Does your child engage in rule-breaking, sabotage themselves or others, or act aggressively in front of you, but behaves like an angel with a nanny, sitter or teacher? This can be very frustrating and confusing for parents. There are a few reasons why your child may be misbehaving for you but not a sitter or teacher:

Unmet Needs

Children may misbehave because of an unmet need. Parents deal with daily stress, undoubtedly lose patience and sometimes do not take the time to listen to what children are asking.

 Many times parents ignore their children. Parents are too busy or say “no” because they are dealing with their own adult problems. If parents take the time to listen to their children's request, they will most likely will see that the request is simple and reasonable. Giving into the request will not hurt the parent; it will only strengthen the parent/child relationship by instilling confidence in the child and showing them they can rely on their parent to meet their needs. 

It is natural for parents to want to teach lessens, discourage bad behavior and set limitations, but too much of this makes a child feel that the parent is not on their side. If a child misbehaves, it not because he or she has forgotten the rules. It is because with misbehavior he or she believes they have a better chance of getting their needs met. Meeting the needs of children makes them feel safe and protected. Children cooperate when they believe their parents or caregivers are on their side.


Power Struggles

Your child may be acting out because he or she feels a lack of power. Does your caregiver or your child's teacher gives your child more power than you do? When children lack power, they feel helpless and try to assert themselves or control others. Parents may worry that empowering their children will involve yielding authority to their children or permitting them to make decisions they are not permitted to make.

A child cannot be empowered or feel stable without clear parental authority and leadership, and is it that leader that will ultimately serve as a model for him. There is a clear difference between giving children power versus letting them overpowering you. 

Children seek power because they have so little. Children live in constant admiration of adults power. Children feel powerful when they please parents with achievements. However, sometimes they also feel powerful when they shock parents. When children run ahead of you on the street or use “hot button” words or phrases to get your attention, it is to make them feel powerful. Your shocked reaction makes them feel powerful. 

Your child may be misbehaving to get your attention. He wants your attention in the quickest, most reliable way, even if it upsets you. A teacher or caregiver may be giving your child more attention and power. This does not make you a bad parent; this makes you a human being with responsibilities other than parenting.

If this resonates with you think of ways you can give your child more power. These changes can be so simple. Let your child pick out her clothes, allow her to open and close the doors of the car, let him choose the evening entertainment for the family, let him choose what she eats for lunch. Giving children power and meeting their needs is not necessarily allowing them to control the situation, it’s letting them feel like they are.

Lack of Predictability

Predictability and consistency is important for child development. Routines helps children feel safe and secure. Nannies and babysitters follow schedules given to them by parents. Teachers also follow a daily routine. However, parents many times alter the routine to fit into their personal schedule. Sometimes routine have to be altered, for example, a scheduled family gathering or birthday party which falls during nap time. But if you are constantly changing your child's routine this lack of predictability could be a reason he or she misbehaves. Your child may be tired or hungry because of of the schedule changes and you may be missing the signs.

If your child's behavior does not improve, you may want to seek professional help. Read up on when parents should seek help for a behavioral issue.

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