Why Your Child Acts Like an Angel Outside and a Demon at Home | Working Mother

Why Your Child Acts Like an Angel Outside and a Demon at Home

Here's how to get your kid to behave—around you.

Demon Child

Does your kiddo act completely different–in a bad way—at home?

Photo: iStock

The saying is true: you always hurt the one you love. Children hold it together all day—at school, camp, lessons, a job, with friends and other family—because the outside world is full of unknowns and natural consequences. On the other hand, home, for them, is a safe place to let it all out because Mom and Dad, while they may get angry, won't reject or abandon them. Still, this is frustrating and worrisome for parents.

Just because it's normal for children to act this way doesn’t mean you just wait it out. You are your child’s most important teacher about life, relationships and dealing with feelings. Here are some things you can do to get your kid to behave better at home.

Set boundaries with your child.

This ties into discipline. Kids desperately need restrictions, since too many choices and too much power ultimately make them feel unsafe. They’re "flying without a net" and cannot handle all that responsibility.

Setting boundaries is good for parents too, since it says, on behalf of the parent, “This is how far I will go and no further.” It protects Mom or Dad from feeling taken advantage of and resentful and provides limits to the child.

Praise your kid's positive efforts.

Our culture says, "When kids feel good about themselves, they will do good things." This needs to be flipped. When kids do good things, then they will feel better about themselves. Parents can help boost their child’s self-esteem by recognizing and praising their child's efforts and the character traits he or she demonstrates. This recognition of your kid's strengths can never be taken away, unlike more generic praise.


  • "What a good friend you are!" vs. "You listened so carefully."
  • "You’re a great basketball player." vs. "I see all that practice and persistence is paying off on the court."
  • "Great, you finished your homework." vs. "I know that science homework was difficult, and you were persistent and finished it off first."

To read more of Fern's work, check out the links below:

How to Say "No" without Guilt and Resentment

From Terrible Twos to Terrible Teens

Name It to Tame It: Helping Kids Manage Difficult Feelings

Energize with Empowering Language