Drawing a masterpiece on a freshly painted wall. Remember that time when your kids unleashed their inner Michelangelos in unsolicited wall murals—furniture, upholstery, and other items? “This behavior can be an expression of artistic impulses and/or a method of gaining our attention,” Dr. Tausig-Edwards says. Or kids just think it is a good idea at the time. She suggests hanging large sheets of butcher paper with masking or some other non-marking tape on all four corners and then invite your children to draw only on the paper. “You will know fairly quickly whether the driver of their behavior is more of an artistic impulse or more of an attention-getting one.”
Decorating a sibling’s face with magic markers. They’re not trying to ruin their sister or brother’s good looks out of jealousy. “It’s usually part of fun, curiosity, or an imagination game,” Dr. Blanchard says. “It’s rarely manipulative or purposefully intent on upsetting someone. Kids are fun, curious little beings. They aren’t yet fully aware of the consequences of their actions and likely have not thought it through.” While this may lead to some coloring on your baby, it also leads to a time where your child is super fun to play with and talk to, she says. “Their minds are open and the world is their oyster. Try to embrace this period and guide your child in making good choices.”
Weird Things Older Kids Do
Refusing to talk about their day at school. Some kids just need downtime when they get home. “As a mom of three boys, I totally understand the frustration of asking your child how was your day at school and getting back, ‘fine.’” Dr. Blanchard says. “After a long day at school kids may not be in the mood to talk or review their day.” Try asking your child more specific questions instead of broad ones, such as: What did you eat for lunch? Or, What made you smile today? Or wait until bedtime to chat, when kids are more relaxed.
Giving the pet a makeover. Some kids like to dress up pets like dolls and put barrettes on long-haired dogs, but Rachel Barrack, a veterinarian with Animal Acupuncture, has also seen cases of kids trying to add color. “Kids love to color with markers and crayons, but keep these away from your pets,” says Barrack, who practices in NYC. She says that body glitter and nail polish are also not safe.
Holding pets (or siblings) up like Simba. The sweet scene in the Lion King inspires kids to hold their pets up like a baby lion. However, Barrack says, “this is not only scary for them, but you can drop them.” That goes for little sister or brother, too. “We don’t want to encourage children to do any weird things with pets,” Barrack says, suggesting pet-friendly alternative activities such as cuddling, teaching and learning new tricks, exercise, reading, and “pet-friendly” arts and crafts.
Playing with prickly things. Some foods need close parental supervision. Naresh C. Rao, D.O., FAOASM, of Sports Medicine at Chelsea, shares a cautionary tale about a 9-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother who saw a prickly pear in a grocery store. “The sister picked it up, and it felt fuzzy. She then told her brother to pick it up,” he says. “After both of them held it, they felt pain and told mom.” As it turned out, he says, “The slivers from the Prickly Pear had to be removed by a pediatric dermatologist because the spikes were so small that the doctor needed specialized equipment to have it removed from their skin.”
Creating obstacle courses. Dr. Rao, who lives in Scarsdale and was on Team USA’s sports medicine team for the 2016 Summer Olympics, has treated injuries relating to kids playing around in cars. One 9-year-old boy decided to buckle all the seat belts in the back of Mom’s minivan and swing through them like an obstacle course. “He then convinced his 11-year-old sister to join him,” Dr. Rao says. “She got through one but then got caught up in the next one. It was so tightly wrapped around her body that the latching mechanism would not release.” The seat belt needed to be cut to free her.
Weird Things Tweens Do
Girls going gaga over male pop idols. It’s a rite of passage that harkens back beyond Elvis and the Beatles and the Backstreet Boys. “Teen idols are often fantasy romantic partners when tweens and teens first start to have crushes,” Dr. Saltz says. “It is a safe way to express and experience romantic and sexual feelings in an exciting way.” Teens and tweens feel close to the idol by going to concerts and playing their music, which explains why parents find themselves shelling out money for tickets, T-shirts, and posters. Because adolescent brains are more primed for risk taking and emotionality, a teen may go to great lengths to be close to and experience their idol, Dr. Saltz says.
Boys using potty humor. “Boys love potty humor—farts and poop jokes never get old—and that’s why they will read a series like Captain Underpants over and over again,” says Hillary Tubin, former literacy educator and author of Boys and Books: What You Need to Know. “Boys also love to read in the weirdest positions: standing, squeezed into a tiny space, in a fort, on their backs with their arms raised and the book high in the air, and while moving around to name a few.” She says boys are the happiest when they get to read a book such as Captain Underpants squeezed into a tiny space made into a fort, with a flashlight in hand and their favorite pet close by.
Being tied to electronic devices. The romance begins early on and by the time kids have cellphones and iPads they might as well have been born with the device firmly attached to their hand. Texting is how teens communicate. “We live in a world of constant motion and as such they grab anything to keep constantly busy,” says technology expert Donna Conroy, co-founder of House Monkey. Always monitor use, she says, and get kids to take a time-out from devices as much as possible.