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Commentary: Why are my kids good around other people and then badly behaved with me?

PERTH: Parents may be familiar with this scenario: A child is well behaved at school and polite to their teachers but has a meltdown at home in the afternoon.

Or they say please and thank you at a friend’s house but are rude with their family. They follow the rules if they visit a neighbour but have to be constantly reminded about not slamming doors and raiding the pantry at home.

Why is this so? And is there anything you can do about it?


Even well-behaved children misbehave from time to time.

When young children get tired, such as after a play date or a long day at daycare or school, they can become irritable and disruptive. Children are also naturally curious and may misbehave sometimes just to see what happens.

However, some children seem to behave consistently worse at home than with other people. To understand this phenomenon, it’s necessary to understand why children behave the way they do.

From the very beginning, a child’s behaviour produces results or outcomes. For example, babies soon learn crying is a very effective way of signalling they are in distress. Parents quickly learn to change a wet nappy or feed their infant when they cry. A smile often results in an adult smiling back, cooing or cuddling the baby.

So children quickly realise their behaviour can be an effective way of controlling the actions of others.

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