Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Author Explains Why Kids Are Misbehaving And Why Giving Them Chores Can Help


With kids out of school, summer can be a challenging time for parents. And if you’re facing tantrums or defiant behavior from your children, the author of a new book says you’re not alone.

The book is called The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever – And What To Do About It. Author Katherine Reynolds Lewis said there’s scientific research to show that kids nowadays are less capable of regulating their own behavior.

Interview Highlights:

Credit Ashley Gross / KNKX
Katherine Reynolds Lewis is the author of The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever - And What To Do About It

On what may be causing kids’ lack of self-regulation and an increase in youth mental health concerns:

“There are three big factors I identify in the book that also are associated with increases in anxiety, depression, ADHD, narcissism, and those are number one, the decline in childhood play. Kids really are supervised, they are often in structured activities from the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep, so they don’t have that opportunity to develop social skills and to learn impulse control through play with other children. Number two is the increase in media and technology throughout our society, and of course this affects adults as well. So we also are challenged with attention issues and anxiety and depression. And number three is that children today are `unemployed.’ They don’t have household jobs where they’re responsible for a meal or a chore or watching a younger sibling. They don’t often have after-school jobs. And this robs them of the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way that lays the foundation for wellbeing and mental health.”

On how to get reluctant kids to do chores:

“The best way to start is with a chore or a job in the household that kids want to do. So often cooking with a flame on the stove or working with a sharp knife. Those are challenging and slightly risky and kids are drawn to that. So begin wherever your child will begin, and you’ll find that as they take on more responsibility, they feel more empowered and they’re more willing to help in other areas.”

On why authoritarian parenting doesn’t work in the long run:

“There’s so much evidence that this type of parenting, authoritarian parenting – yes, it leads to compliant children but it doesn’t have these two important outcomes that we all want as parents. Number one is mental health. Parental criticism, controlling is so associated with problems with depression, eating disorders, anxiety and really serious psychological issues for some children. Number two, and this holds for all children, is that it undermines our long-term relationship with our kids. Yes, I want my children to grow up to be capable and competent adults who are responsible, but I also want them to come home for Thanksgiving dinner. I want to have a strong relationship with them. And fundamentally it’s better to teach them that these things happen because they’re needed, rather than someone says it. We want our kids to grow up to be creative, innovative problem solvers, not just order followers.”

On what to do when your kid has a tantrum:

“Number one is to try to shift your own perspective from `Oh no, I’ve done something wrong. My kid’s out of control. I’ve failed as a parent.’ This is just what all kids do on the path to learning to control their behavior. Once we bring that heat down in our own bodies and minds, it’s so much easier to say – okay, what’s needed? Step two is to help that child regulate. And often there’s not that much to do in the moment, but afterwards you can assess with them and say, `What was that like for you?’ Help them understand the experience, so they can start to see the warning signs when they’re building up that heat and also to learn different strategies that might help. Brainstorm a list of 10 things you might do when you’re really feeling like I’m at my limit. Do ten jumping jacks, or put a cool cloth on your forehead, hug your teddy bear. There’s so many things that help children self-regulate that we need to brainstorm with them so they can find solutions to their own emotions and behavior and thoughts.”

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.