Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you ever see your kids act up?

Do you struggle with your child misbehaving?

Do you wish that you knew the right way to talk about your child not behaving well in English?

Do you want to be able to connect with other parents in English when it comes to talking about your kids?

We’re going to talk about the phrases that parents can use when their children are not acting right.

This question perfectly highlights a situation that many have been in with their kids.

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Hello girls!

I love your work, your discussions, the topics, and everything else from your show! Thank you very much for keeping doing it so interesting for us!

Here I am again, with another question!

The other day, my daughter was behaving really badly at a Halloween party. She wanted her friends’ toy, and she didn’t listen to me when I told her to stop yelling. It was a circus! I had to take her out of the party and go back home because it was so bad.

Besides the parent challenge about how to educate my daughter, my question is: what is the name of her bad behavior? I mean, when I was explaining to another friend what happened I wanted to tell her that she was yelling and behaving like a spoiled child. I couldn’t find the word that I wanted, but I believe she understood the message.

After all of this, I looked for the better way to describe the situation and I found the word ‘tantrum’ in the dictionary. Does that word work to describe my daughter’s behavior that day? Could you give me more tips about how to talk about this situation?

Thank you very much again!


Parenting Issues We All Talk About

This is a great question because it deals with situations that many of us struggle with as parents.

Using the word tantrum is quite common and fitting for this type of scenario.

Many of us have had a kid act up, and the word tantrum often describes things quite well.

Generally speaking if a child if behaving in a spoiled way they MAY be having a tantrum but they may not be.

A spoiled child may be yelling or may just be acting in a way that shows that they think that they are more important than others.

A tantrum or temper tantrum is mostly about the yelling part of this.

So if your child was behaving this way, it sounds like both would be useful phrases!

We’ve all been there, and there can be quite a difference between a child having a tantrum and a spoiled child.

Sometimes Kids Act Up and That’s Life

It’s important to realize that these things mostly mean misbehaving, which is really a nice way of putting it.

These phrases may come across as rude, but it’s only if you are really upset about the situation or behavior and you need to vent or let out your emotions.

Parents go through difficult times with kids, and that’s life.

There are times when they act up when using the word “tantrum” may be quite appropriate when you discuss it.

There are other times when a child always acts like they are better or deserve special attention–and that’s when “spoiled” may be more appropriate in conversation.

We all go through this as parents, and sometimes you just need to vent to others who understand.

Different Ways To Describe Kids Behavior

Remember that these phrases and words are typically used in conversations.

You wouldn’t really say this to a child directly because it may come off as rude and hurt their feelings.

If however you need to vent about your kid issues, these are the phrases that can help you to speak to what’s going on.

  • Throw a (temper) tantrum: This is something that is happening usually in the moment. Your child may be acting up, overtired, or may be reacting to something in that moment. These are usually temporary situations that you can work through eventually. “Sorry my daughter is throwing a temper tantrum right now. I’ll call you back later.”
  • Being/acting like a spoiled (spoiled brat): This may speak to the child’s general demeanor or common behavior. Sometimes parents don’t realize that their kids are like this. Otherwise it can speak to a child who acts this way a lot. It may be temporary or situational, and in that case you might use “acting like a brat” instead. “Sorry, he’s being a spoiled brat right now. Why won’t he share his toys?
  • Meltdown: This is similar to temper tantrum because it’s when a child seems to be losing their cool. You may have no idea how to control it and it may come about every once in awhile. In that moment though, you feel like you have lost control over your child. “Sorry my son is having a meltdown because I won’t let him have a cookie!”
  • Misbehaving: This can even be used for adults who are showing extreme bad behavior in unusual situations. This is a more common term as you saw in the example above. This is the general overall statement that many people use to describe their kids acting up.
  • Throwing a (hissy) fit: This is like a tantrum or a meltdown, and it feels like you have lost control. Your child is likely reacting to something they don’t like and you have to try to reel them back in. This often happens in the middle of them screaming. “Now don’t throw a hissy fit–he’s going to give you back your toy!”
  • Acting out: This is often when the child reacts to the answer “no” or something that they don’t like. They are not acting like themselves, but rather acting out in an unflattering way. “I wish I could join you but my son is acting out so he can’t go to the party with us.”
  • Carrying on like a… : This is like a tantrum but it may linger a bit. They can’t seem to calm down and this is a horrible feeling for parents. “I had to leave the haircut place without getting her hair done because she was carrying on like a baby!”

None of these phrases are complimentary, but they can all be used to describe what is going on in the moment.

Sometimes parenting can be hard and parents need to vent–these phrases can all help with that.


Try to remember that these phrases are ways to say misbehaving, which is ultimately a more formal word that doesn’t sound as angry or upset.

The phrases from today show real anger and frustration–sometimes we do have to use these kinds of words and phrases , but remember it’s all about how you say them too.

Choose your phrases carefully because others will think you are very mad and things could escalate.

Be mindful of how you talk about or describe your children, and these words can help.

It’s not just about word choice, but also about the tone of voice that you use as well.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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