Children can be particularly sensitive to other people’s feelings, especially those of their mothers and fathers. So, when there’s some tension brewing at home, they might be affected too.

Although there are children who seem to be able to cope when their parents aren’t getting on well together, for many it can disrupt their lives thus they become unhappy.

In a study on the Isle of Wight, directed by Professor Michael Rutter, it was discovered that boys seem to be particularly sensitive to parental distress, or at least they react to it more than girls.

Dr. Joan Freeman, a child psychologist, enumerated how children often react to strained relationships at home:

  • By becoming over anxious. This anxiety often comes out as aggression, in the forms of bad behavior. Demonstrations of anger can be learned by even the tiniest baby, who may discover that it’s only when she gets really worked up to screaming point that she gets the attention she wants, while silence or whimpering get her nowhere.
  • By becoming safety valves. Children can draw attention away from the real problem of family stress and on to themselves. They can, for example, seem to be unwell. Most parents recognize the tummy-ache before school as a sign of tension, but other more serious problems such as asthma or diabetes can also be signs of stress, and may vanish when the stress goes.

Unfortunately, parents have been known to justify their child’s behavior by claiming it’s because he’s too clever. So when a clever child has a temper tantrum, or disturbs the other children in class, it’s said to be excusable because he’s bored. Frustration and boredom, which are common to most children at times, should never be used as a license for bad behavior.

When bright children have behavior problem, the tendency is that there are reasons behind it that need attention, not excuses.