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  • Writer's pictureKayla

Why do children do the things they know they are not supposed to do?

Each week I do a YouTube video about a parenting question. Something we as parents always think about but never really gain an answer to.

Last week I posted a video about this very question. If you would rather watch than read, you can view it below:

The morning I recorded this video, I was going back and forth with my six-year-old daughter about a birthday party we were going to be attending that day. A couple that my friends and I know have a set of twin boys who turned two over the weekend and we were going to visit them for their big day.

So, that morning I told our daughter Lillian that we would be going to visit them because she adores going there. However, that didn't mean we were leaving the moment I told her. Did that stop her from believing we were leaving at that moment? No. She immediately begins to try to get ready for the outing.

  • She tried wearing a skirt to the party. (In 20-degree weather)

  • She tried wearing open toed shoes.

  • Then, once she realized we were truly not leaving right away, she began fighting with Leo (her two-year-old brother) over the controller for the Xbox.

  • Then, because she cannot play the game, she brings me the left shoe from one pair and the right shoe from another

and the list goes on....

This brings me back to the original title of this article.

Why do children do the things they know they are not supposed to do?

Here's my opinion:

I feel that children that children have to battle with parents. Gotta push that envelope and see where they can get. They get to a certain point in life where they finally get their parent to crack and just let them do whatever it is they want to do.

  • Eat chocolate in the morning.

  • Eat pancakes for dinner. (Which isn't too terrible)

  • Be able to snack on all their Halloween candy in less than 24 hours .... because that's not going to give them a stomachache or make us have to run to the emergency room.... oh no....

So, my opinion is that they do this so that they can get to a point where we just crack and let them do what they want to do.

I found a website called that goes over why people, not just children, but people in general do things that they're told that they cannot do. According to this website the issue is called reactance. It's a mechanism in the brain that wants us to be able to do the things that we want to do.

Outside of that, humans are normally curious creatures. Adults or children... doesn't matter. We're curious. We want to do things and if somebody tells us not to do it, we kind of want to wonder why.

Why can't I do this?
What is the reason?
Why won't they let me do this?
I bet you it's fun!

Kids are at the height of that! They're curiosity is spiked 10-fold when you tell them not to do something. Either it's because they think it's exciting or fun and you're just being a mean parent and don't want them to have fun. Or it's something adults are allowed to do but kids are not, and that makes them even more curious to find out if it's good or bad.

What's silly is, this is happening all over the world with all different things. Like Smoking. Smoking is a big one. We tell kids all their lives not to smoke and a large percentage of children who grow up in a household where their parents smoke, end up trying smoking or continuously smoking themselves.

It's curiosity!

They end up thinking:

Well, why are you telling me not to do it if you do it all the time. You obviously enjoy it, because you're doing it every single day. You've done it every single day of my entire life. So. I should probably try it.

Now... No... For anyone reading this that may be of adolescent age.... Do not do it. Listen, I am trying so hard. I'm a smoker, most of you probably don't know that, but I'm a smoker and I HATE IT! I want to quit so badly, and I started smoking because my mom smoked, and my dad smoked. When they were angry or anxious or frustrated or just bored.... they smoked. So, when I got anxious and things; I was like, "You know what, I should smoke a cigarette. What's it gonna hurt?"

I was curious. It was a bad idea.

Getting off topic - Let's move on!

So, curiosity mixed with the reactance in our brains makes us want to do the things that we're told not to do. So, children are just working off of that reactance and that curiosity to try and find out what is happening and why they can't do what we told them not to do.

Most of the time that reaction ends with someone getting hurt, someone getting in trouble or

someone getting grounded because they did the thing that we told them not to do.

So, my suggestion that children do this just because they want to push and see if they're going to get told they're allowed to do it probably wasn't the right one. It's possible that my kids do that from time to time because, I'm not going to lie to you, there are times that I crack. One will come in here screaming about a video game and if it's the six-year-old I'll call the eight-year-old downstairs and go, "Listen, just let her play for five minutes. Mommy needs quiet!" So, it happens, and it might be a reason, but we're going to go ahead and lay it out for curiosity and the reactance in your brain.

🧡Shine Bright, Kayla

Copyright © 2022 Kayla Tackett

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