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Extremely Bad Behavior in Children

By Amy Kaminsky ; Updated June 13, 2017

Extremely bad behavior in children is often a result of frustration. It is characterized by angry, often violent outbursts. Dr. Elise Abromson, a child psychologist in Frederick, Maryland, says that extremely bad behavior is how a child expresses himself when all other measures have failed. It is a child’s last ditch effort to get what he wants.


Uncontrollable, negative physical behavior is one type of extremely bad behavior. Hitting, biting, throwing things, using bad words and throwing severe temper tantrums are additional common examples. According to, a lack of impulse controls makes toddlers in particular prime candidates to exhibit undesirable behavior.


Jealousy or sadness can cause extremely bad behavior. Marital problems between a child’s parents can also cause inappropriate behavior. “Children hear their parents fighting and tend to express their feelings in maladaptive, and at times aggressive, ways,” says Dr. Abromson.

Extremely bad behavior can also result from a physical disorder, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to, ADHD is a neurological disorder that causes children to be hyperactive, inattentive or impulsive.


“Extreme bad behavior causes stress and frustration for siblings. Parents find themselves in conflict over discipline strategies. Bad behavior can also limit the family to activities inside the house in fear of an episode,” says Dr. Abromson. She adds that sibling rivalry can erupt when siblings feel their activities are limited because of another child’s inappropriate behavior.


The keys to ending extremely bad behavior lie in consistent discipline, following through with “threats” and providing one warning then a consequence--“the one and done rule”--according to Dr. Abromson.

Anne B. Smith, in her article “How Do Infants and Toddlers Learn the Rules? Family Discipline and Young Children,” published in the International Journal of Early Childhood, writes that parents must maintain firm and demanding styles of parenting, and they must forge warm and reciprocal relationships with their children. Smith stresses the importance of positive reinforcement after good behavior and mild nonphysical punishment, such as "time out," after bad behavior. In a "time out" punishment, the parent instructs the child to sit in a nonthreatening place, such as a seat or corner for a designated period of time, according to The website suggests that the length of time equal one minute for every year of the child's age.


It’s possible to avoid extremely bad behavior by teaching children to deal with anger in nonviolent ways, according to The site encourages parents to teach their children to communicate with words instead of violence. The site also suggests that parents teach their children to turn their backs on other children or situations that may be upsetting or to find compromises instead of having outbursts. The website reminds parents that children learn by watching. It is important for parents to avoid using aggression, as children mimic their parents' behavior. “Children need an outlet for their anger. Drawing or coloring is a good way for children to calm down before extreme bad behavior starts,” recommends Dr. Abromson.

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