“All kids do that”

I went through a long (longer than I will admit) period of time when the phrase “all kids do that” made me furious. Irrationally, completely, insanely full of RAGE. It seems to be used, most often, for someone to dismiss a special need or parenting concern with a not-so-subtle overtone of “you’re overreacting.” To be fair, I think many purveyors of this dreaded phrase are trying to be… comforting? Supportive? It isn’t always meant as “calm down, crazypants.” Sometimes it’s meant as a kind of solidarity or empathy, a sort of “I feel you,” albeit one that rings hollow because they don’t, not really.

As I’ve grown older, as my kids’ needs have changed, and as I’ve come to hate people less (ha), I’m realizing that “all kids do that” comes from a place that means well, more often than not. Lots of times it’s true that “all kids do that,” and it’s just that the degree/severity/frequency is the part that’s different and/or troubling. There’s nothing to be gained by believing that my special snowflakes somehow out-special someone else’s. Any common ground is worth having.

That said, you show me an organized teenager and I might have a bridge you’d be interested in buying. Yeah, my kids are probably more disorganized than most, but today at Alpha Mom I’m talking tips for teens who need organizational support, and I think they can be used for just about everyone. After all… all kids do that. (See what I did there…?)


  1. Megan

    My daughter once read a book, a really delightful book BTW whose title I really wish I could remember, which had a character who believed in the ‘heap’ method of organisation. She would look with great satisfaction on a room which had everything all neatly tidied into heaps, right out where you could see them and know where everything was.

    You know how they say literature is inspirational? Yah, that’s a mixed blessing, I assure you.

  2. Stacy

    I had to laugh about the “all kids do that” because I was the one using that line in regards to my daughter’s behavior. I just wanted assurance that her behavior was normal (all kids do that, right?). Turns out, it wasn’t quite normal and a friend recommended a great book (The Highly Sensitive Child) and turns out I have a HSC (and I’m a Highly Sensitive Person, which is just AWESOME with a husband in the military who is gone all the time, because I need a lot of “time outs” and my HSC just wants to cuddle and be held all the time, but I digress). But, even if her behavior isn’t always normal, I do get very upset when people recommend I get her checked out because they perceive her behavior as wrong. It’s not wrong, it’s just different. But I find many of your hints helpful with her. Thank you!

  3. Katie K.

    Sometimes reading about your kids makes me sure we must be distantly related or something. I am always joking with my kids about needing to go to college with them, but now that my son is going to be a Junior in HS, it isn’t as funny! He currently has no idea where his learner’s permit is so he had to miss his driving lesson this morning. It doesn’t matter that much because due to some lost/not handed in work last quarter, his grades dipped just below the level needed to get the good-student discount on insurance so we aren’t letting him get his license until the grades go up anyway. Sigh… As I was typing that, I glanced up to see one of his (ginormous) shoes on the bookshelf. Wonder where the other one is. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but kids will drive you crazy!

  4. Karen R

    My response the the well-intentioned “all kids do that” was to ask if they also do that, and that, and that, and at an intensity that blocks out everything else. Some of it really is typical behavior, but taken to an extreme and frequency that is rarely typical.

  5. js

    My favorite phrase is “boys will be boys”. Surely, boys and girls are different but this is usually an excuse for bad/lazy/no parenting. Yes, your child is a boy. Yes boys like to jump. No, your son may not jump from my brand new couch to the chair and break my grandmothers lamp, thanksverymuch.

  6. suburbancorrespondent

    I hear you. All kids do that…until, um, no, no they don’t. Not like this…

  7. karen

    Ummm… js…I have used “Boys will be Boys” often, I don’t think anyone would described me as a bad or lazy parent… boys have a tendency toward certain behaviors and the saying fits at times. and I have also used… “all kids do that”… I think you hit the nail on the head, Mir. It is a phrase used mostly as a form of commeraderie (sp?), highlighting a common thread, also a means of comfort and an offering up of kindness. I’m glad the thought of it no longer sets you in a rage because I honestly think there is rarely ill intention when using the phrase.

    Regarding organized kids? I have one who is EXTREMELY organized.. (OCD to be honest) and one who is a slob. There are pros and cons to both, I can assure you..lol…

    • Mir

      The kicker is that my bigger slob also has OCD. Too bad it doesn’t take the form of needing to be tidy, I guess.

  8. js

    I did say usually and I’m glad to hear you’re not one of the parents who uses excuses to justify their child’s bad behavior that I was referring to. The phrase, while sometimes fitting, seems to imply that a child isn’t responsible for his behavior. But this is just my opinion and not really relevant to the topic. I was just venting. That lamp was very important to me ;-)

  9. Lucinda

    It was always reassuring to me to hear that because I didn’t want to believe my child was super special in a difficult kind of way. I can see how it would be frustrating if your child really does have a special need but for the rest of us, it is reassuring. Or at least for me. Even if my kids does do things that “all kids” decidedly do NOT do.

  10. Billie

    My favorite saying is not, “All kids do that”. It’s, “Boys will be boys”.

    I recently figured it out though. Boys will be boys until it’s your son that is getting his shoes peed on or he is getting picked on and bullied. When it happens to your kid, let me know if you laughed it off like you did when your son peed in my son’s shoes.

  11. Dezi Nance

    I too love the phrase “boys will be boys” but not as an excuse for truly rotten of thoughtless behavior. I grew up with 7 brothers and raised, (raising) three boys, and I am the strictest mum I know. Perhaps due to the fact I have seven brothers and went nearly insane because my mum did nothing at all to curb their maniacal tendencies. .(Yes, i still love them), but I still have that twitch in the left eye from the basement terrors my bro’s loved to put me through!! Joking aside, raising kids is just plain hard no matter the sex, and in this age i think it’s even more hard with smudged and unclear guidelines. I would love to give my own daughter some advise to help her with her three boys, but to her I don’t understand, which makes it hard because I do understand. When did parents become so stupid? We live in a culture that is ULTRA judgmental and I hate it. No wonder we’ve become so defensive!!! When my oldest fell on her trike trying to reach something high up, (A girl) the doctor asked HER if I had hurt her. I mean where are we as a culture that he would assume THAT on her first “boo boo” visit? SCARY!!! Just hang in there, you do so well as far as I read between the lines. You LOVE them. that counts for everything even the mistakes we make!!! God bless you Mir!! You give a smile to my day every time I read your blog!! So thanks so much for that. :)

  12. Mara

    I’m probably guilty of using that one quite a bit. My kids are younger (2 and 4) and at this age we’re all looking for reassurance that they’re “normal”. That they’re OK. That the fact that they smear their feces on the wall/ terrorize the pets/ didn’t talk until they were 3/ only eat when it’s a full moon doesn’t actually mean anything BAD… so we all say, “don’t worry, they all do that” and dredge up a few examples of someone else’s kid that did that with the poop. I guess when there are more serious issues at stake and when the kids are older, it takes on a different tone…

    My sister was very organized and clean as a teenager. She’s been that way her whole life, poor girl.

  13. jamie

    Know what else I hate?

    Been there, done that.

    Man, that makes me want to stab someone in the eyes with my knitting needles.

  14. Chris G

    I don’t believe I use the phrase “boys will be boys” but I know that boys need an outlet for all that energy they possess. We stopped by the beach many times to throw rocks in the water or try to skip them or find a pretty or different one. We went to different parks and slid down the slides and swung on the swings. It seemed to calm them down a little and made for better nap time. I had to be creative and we still bring up the time when it was just before my ex-husband and I split up and the oldest ones birthday. My parents were over and we all ate together and then my ex went into the basement himself drank some beer and was singing to the stereo turned up loud. When we went to cut the cake ( a DQ ice cream cake) he refused to come up and have cake with us. We sang happy birthday etc. We ate the cake and I was fuming. My 9 year old son was upset and I could see it. This time my parents were wanting to talk and visit and all I wanted was to get them out of there because I was fighting to keep myself together and wanted to whisk the kids away somewhere to run around and laugh and have fun. I finally got them out of the house and out to their car when my mom had to go back in the house for something she forgot and then wanted to ask about the flowers I planted and make small talk about them ie How much sun they should get. Whether or not they needed to be dead headed and I about pushed her into the car . I felt bad but I had to get out of the house. I didn’t know where I was going but I was going and fun was about to be had. I told the kids to get their swim suits on and get a beach towel and we headed to the car. My ex then came out of the basement to argue with me. I wanted to go up to Lake Michigan which is 45 minutes away but it was getting late and we wouldn’t have much time before dark so I decided to go to the campus of Notre Dame and low and behold they had their sprinklers on and we parked and the boys ran through them and laughed and the youngest picked up and hose and put it up to his face and was giggling. It was good for them to get their pent up energy and disappointed out and it was the salve I needed for my wound. We got into the car and my oldest the 9 year old sat in the front. ( They used to fight about the front seat and I solved this by rotating monthly so it was his birthday and his turn for the front seat) My 7 year old was in the back seat and we headed to Taco Bell for a snack since we were too tense to eat much earlier. When I was waiting to get my order at the window I turned around and asked them if they had a good time. My youngest piped up and said “It was the most fun I’ve had in my entirely life) As he spoke those words I looked at his smile and the water running off of his nose and knew he meant it even if entirely life is not correct I knew what he meant and it was the best time of my entirely life too. We then went to the drug store for some chocolate. About this time I got a phone call asking when I would be home and said in a few minutes were almost there. That night I tucked in two boys with chocolate kisses and the biggest smiles on their mouths. We desperately needed that time out.

  15. Cathy

    We are in the midst of a very difficult time with our child. It involves a lot of violent outbursts that target and hurt me. He’s little. People seem to want to reassure me with “all kids have a hitting phase, it will pass.” I really don’t care, and they really don’t have any solutions to help it pass faster. Those reassurances don’t reassure at all, especially when I’m pretty sure what we’re experience may look like a normal phase but is amplified in ways others have never experienced. I wish they just listen, comment on how they manage their own child’s challenging period, and let it be.

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