Why Do Children Behave Badly?

By Greg Baer M.D.

March 19, 2024

I know a five-year-old child, Ziva.

Her mother, Victoria, told me that in the last several months, Ziva had been extremely difficult to get along with—at kindergarten and at home with her sister and her mother. She was resistant, angry, and impossible to correct.

A Child Explains When She Started to Behave Badly

One day, Ziva said to Victoria, “Do you know when I first started being mean?”

Wow, what a question! Few adults understand anything about the origins of their behavior, but here a five-year-old is recognizing her unkindness and is about to address when it began.

Victoria said, “No,”

With astonishing understanding, Ziva said, “This started the very first time you were mean to me. I thought to myself, maybe I'll be mean too. Because I didn't know how to be a person, so I wanted to be like you. And I wanted to follow you. And you were mean, so I decided I would be too.”

For months Mom had been distracted by a new baby and other things, and she had neglected her study of the Parenting Training, as well as neglecting loving contacts with other adults.

Mom had been warned not to ignore her own needs, because it would affect her parenting of Ziva, but Victoria thought it would be all right. Neglecting her education and her need for love, Victoria had been impatient with Ziva, who was affected by it profoundly.

Ziva continued, “You are just doing what your parents taught you. Do you know that, Mom? You’re doing to me what they did to you—the stuff you said you hated.”

A five-year-old girl summarized much of what I have tried to explain in the Parenting Training. 

It’s interesting to know that Ziva had actually watched the first few chapters of the Training with Victoria, and she very much missed it when her mother stopped watching.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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