5 Reasons My Young Child “Misbehaves”: Tired, Hungry, Bored, Lonely, or Sick

Louis C.K. spanking quote

I am of the 20% of the American population, the minority, who does not believe in spanking in order to discipline my child.

With that being said, I always give a disclaimer when I write about this: I have no interest in judging other parents for their decisions. If anything, today’s post has more to do with defending my own unusual parenting style.

My theory is that it’s easy and natural as a parent, especially a new parent (which I no longer am), to assume your child is “misbehaving” when really they are needing your attention as a parent, but are incapable of explicitly communicating that to you.

I simplify the symptoms into 5 simple categories. When my child “misbehaves,” he is really just tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick.

As his dad, it’s my responsibility to recognize these as symptoms of a greater issue, instead of problems themselves.

Otherwise, I could allow myself to believe my child is misbehaving simply because he is “being a brat right now”.

It comes down to emotional intelligence. I’m a 34 and a half year-old man. I am good at communicating how I feel and at understanding emotions.

However, my son is a month away from being 5 years old, so he’s got about 3 decades less of communication experience and emotional control than I do.

I feel it would be unfair to my child to physically strike him simply because he is tired, or hungry, or bored, or lonely, or sick; blaming him for “misbehaving” when really, he’s in need of my parental provision.

So instead, whenever he is “acting up”, I ask myself this simple question:

“Is my child tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick?”

There has yet to be an instance where at least one of those symptoms was not the answer.

I remind myself, that again, my son typically is not going to simply state what the problem is:

“Daddy, the reason I am crying and refusing to sit still is because I didn’t take a long enough nap today at Pre-K. Therefore, the best solution is to put me to bed tonight sooner than usual.”

If I myself am tired, I recognize that fact and make plans to try to sleep; like yesterday, I used my lunch break at work to sleep in my car.

If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m bored, I find a way to entertain myself. If I’m lonely, I engage someone in conversation. And if I’m not feeling well, I do something about it.

But imagine babies and young children, not being able to necessarily recognize those issues about themselves. They need their parents to recognize these issues and proactively handle, and even prevent, these from even happening.

With my 2nd child due to be born in April, I feel I will be better equipped with this knowledge than I was with my 1st child.

I feel I will be less frustrated because I will clearly understand that a newborn has no way, other than screaming and crying, that he or she is tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick; and is depending on me to be proactive enough to do something about it.

So instead of spanking my 4 year-old son, I follow these simple guidelines I learned from back when I was Parents.com’s official daddy blogger for those 3 years:

1. Ignore attention-seeking behavior.

2. Pay attention to good behavior.

3. Redirect your child.

4. Teach consequences that make sense.

5. Use time-outs for serious offenses.

Questioning “I Was Spanked As A Child And I Turned Out Just Fine!” Infographic

I have to again immediately point out that I recognize I am of the small majority of American parents who does not spank my child; nor have I ever.

This is something I’ve addressed before in both I Find Louis C.K.’s Bit On Child Discipline Hard To Argue With, as well as, Is Spanking Actually More Effective Than The Alternative?


Whether or not other parents spank their children is none of my interest, but I do believe it’s important to help explain some of my reasoning; if nothing else, for those who are curious.

Typically, pro-spanking parents are quick to say, “Well, I was spanked as a child and I turned out just fine!”

The term “just fine” is difficult to qualify, but typically the person will follow up by saying they’ve never been to prison or killed anyone.

Following this logic, that means most prisoners, former prisoners, and ex-cons were not spanked as children. Conversely, that also implies that most children who are spanked stay out of prison.

Ultimately, since most, 80%, of American children are spanked, that means in theory that at least 80% of current prisoners and ex-cons were spanked.

In other words, I’m having difficulty seeing the validity in that spanking children keeps them from growing up to be adults who end up in prison.

During the 3 year span I was the official daddy blogger of Parents.com, I learned a lot from Richard Rende, PhD, who is an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School. He had this to say in his article, Spanking Doesn’t Work:

 ”Let’s keep in mind here the argument for spanking – it’s purported to improve children’s behavior. Studies continue to demonstrate that it does not do this, and in fact often predicts worse behavior. So despite the personal stories and folklore about how a good spanking can change a kid, each empirical study that comes out suggests that it changes a kid for the worse, not better.

If these stories ring true, why don’t we see huge positive effects of spanking when we study kids over time?”

I think it’s easy for non-spanking parents to assume that children who are not spanked (like mine) are brats; especially if they are an only child… again, like mine.

Of course, if you personally knew my son, you would know he’s never been in any trouble at school. Actually, in public, he’s a fairly reserved little boy. So is my son just the exception?

Or would have spanking my son this whole time made him a better behaved child? I wonder what that would look like?

So instead of spanking him, I follow these simple guidelines:

1. Ignore attention-seeking behavior.

2. Pay attention to good behavior.

3. Redirect your child.

4. Teach consequences that make sense.

5. Use time-outs for serious offenses.

The one of these I find most effective is to redirect his attention. And I’ve learned not to punish him for being tired or hungry, because I have more control over his food and sleep than he does. He’s not himself when he’s tired or hungry.

I still can’t get over how Louis CK put it in his special, Hilarious:

“And stop hitting me, you’re huge. How could you hit me?! That’s crazy. You’re a giant, and I can’t defend myself.”I really think it’s crazy that we hit our kids. It really is–here’s the crazy part about it. Kids are the only people in the world that you’re allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They’re the most vulnerable, and they’re the most destroyed by being hit. But it’s totally okay to hit them. And they’re the only ones! If you hit a dog they… will put you in jail for that… You can’t hit a person unless you can prove that they were trying to kill you. But a little tiny person with a head this big who trusts you implicitly, f(orget) ‘em. Who (cares)? Just… hit–let’s all hit them! People want you to hit your kid. If your kid’s making noise in public, “Hit him, hit him! Hit him! Grrr, hit him!” We’re proud of it! “I hit my kids. You’re… right I hit my kids.” Why did you hit them? “‘Cause they were doing a thing I didn’t like at the moment. And so I hit them, and guess what? They didn’t do it after that.” Well, that wouldn’t be taking the… easy way out, would it?”

Ultimately, actual research has shown that spanking has been shown to not only be less effective, but also more detrimental to the child, as seen in the infographic below.

So while I don’t at all look down on parents who spank their children, because let’s be honest, that would mean I look down on most parents if I did, with me being the minority…

I instead can be confident in knowing the reasoning behind why I am so strange to believe that for my child, spanking is not an option.


Attempting To Prevent The Death Of Jay Leno, Regarding The Louis C.K. Curse

Weeks after the fact, I’m still partly in denial about Robin Williams’ death. When an entertainer who was always part of the backdrop of your childhood passes away, it’s like losing a constant. (Reference to the 77th episode of Lost.)


It’s almost like you subconsciously think to yourself, “He can’t be dead. If he’s dead, am I dead too?”

Five years ago, around the time of my 10th year class reunion, three legendary American entertainers passed away: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon.

That was the 1st time I truly become familiar with the concept “Celebrity Deaths Come In Threes.”

I’m not at all a superstitious kind of guy, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it was real…

Attempting To Prevent The Death Of Jay Leno, Regarding The Louis C.K. Curse

Robin Williams a few weeks ago, Joan Rivers today… who’s next? Could we predict it?

I am going to attempt to jinx the next celebrity death: Jay Leno.

Here’s what he has in common with both Robin Williams and Joan Rivers:

They all 3 are/were legendary American comedians who played themselves in guest starring roles in Louis CK’s FX show, Louie.

Louie, by the way, is surprisingly one of the few TV shows I enjoy. As dark as it is, I appreciate many of his takes on parenthood. I love his words of wisdom to his young daughter in the episode, “Pregnant”:

“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

Attempting To Prevent The Death Of Jay Leno, Regarding The Louis C.K. Curse

I want to be wrong about my theory. That’s why I’m going public with my theory. I’m not taking death lightly- I just would have be too weirded out if Jay Leno truly was the 3rd celebrity death and I only privately predicted it.

Now, here’s to being wrong… here’s to jinxing the “Celebrity Deaths Come In Threes” theory.