Is your child’s behavior the chicken or the egg?

As the saying goes, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” 

In the same vein, parents often ask me, “What came first, my child’s acting out or the way I parent?”

Often asked in another, painful way, “Do I have a bad kid or am I a bad parent?” 


It hurts to type that, let alone say it out loud.  

I don’t believe in “bad” kids or parents. 

When kids talk back, ignore you, act rudely or overreact it can oftentimes be attributed to a brain and nervous system wired for intensity 

This means a child doesn’t shy away from a fight.  In fact, the battle you’re trying to avoid can seem unavoidable because children do try to actively engage parents.  Why…? 

Why is it that some kids can’t help but argue, negotiate, and be oppositional? 

Is it intentional or can they help it and behave differently? 

These questions come up a lot during parent coaching.  

My response to the chicken and egg question is, “It’s both—but not for lack of trying!!” 

Hear me out, please. 

Kids with big emotions and outbursts can seem like they’re purposefully doing it, but when you study the brain science beneath behaviors you discover that it’s the way their brain is wired.  I call this fire in the brain.” 

Intense kids have more adrenaline and cortisol flooding their brains, making them sensitive and easy to trigger.  This can make everyday expectations rocky: transitions, doing something they don’t want to do (listening), and regulating their mood and emotions (staying calm). 

Kids often show remorse after a big explosion, some will apologize and swear to do better next time, but often it doesn’t seem to get much better.  Part of this is due to the deep neural pathways of the brain that are wired on “high alert,” making it hard to execute calm and self-control 

Another part of this is development.  Children’s brains are naturally immature and in-the-works.  

The work of childhood is to develop new brain pathways and skills.  And if your child is wired with an intense brain, that work can feel like a slow walk up a steep hill. 

On to your parenting side of the equation… 

You probably had a bright-and-shiny concept of how you wanted to parent and who you wanted to be.  But then you were given a child who is excitable, intense, energetic, and/or sensitive 

You try your best to get your child to listen, show respect, get a decent night’s sleep and be kind to others.  Yet they don’t respond to gentle parenting, reminders, or natural consequences. 

You keep your cool for as long as possible but, over time, they don’t seem to care about how nice you are.  It’s like your child only wants to get their way.  And the only way you get their attention is by yelling.  

It has become a habit.  A pattern when nothing else seems to work.  Your family dynamic. 

So, which came first…the child’s behavior or the parenting approach? 

It might be neither. 

It might be that you have an intense brain child who is wired that way (for one of many reasons!) and that their misbehavior is not purposefully mean or rude 

Rather, their stressed brain chemistry makes it impossible to feel calm inside so what you see are misbehaviors stemming from internal stress.  And they want--and need--your help to guide them through this. 

So, if you have studied kind, gentle, and respectful parenting approaches but they’re not working, it may mean you need a brain-based parenting approach to match your child’s needs. 

4.7 out of 5 parents of intense kids tell me that they don’t feel confident in their parenting approach, and they default to yelling/bossing because it’s the only thing that works to get kids to listen. 

And ALL parents tell me they’re willing to try new strategies if…

  1. The strategies WORK, and,
  2. They knew, specifically, how to implement the strategy for their family. 

That’s why I teach the Mad to Glad Blueprint™️.  It’s an 8-week parenting program that’s rooted in brain science and geared toward parenting your intense child.  

I’m teaching it online, live, starting May 6Check out our course curriculum here. 

I personally teach it so you get step-by-step strategies but—more importantly—you get real-time coaching and troubleshooting support so we can modify it to fit your family dynamics. 

If you want tools that reduce fighting, yelling, and frustration, and increase listening, connection, and happiness at home, I hope you join us!  

I don’t know if your family has a chicken-or-egg situation.  Either way, there’s hope and there’s help! 

Come see why 91% of parents who learn the Mad to Glad Blueprint™️ walk away feeling confident in their parenting approach!




Samantha Moe, M.A. SLP
Certified Parent Coach
Creator, Mad to Glad Blueprint ™
Professional training to support intense kids and their families

P.S. We transform brain-based parenting tools into concrete action steps so your child calms, connects, and cooperates.  View the full course curriculum here and register today(Remember to enter coupon PARENT50 to save $50; if you’re an alumni hit ‘reply’ and ask for the half-off coupon code).

Continuing education, advanced training, and parent coach certification for professionals who support intense kids and their families. View my mental health Ted Talk on helping families heal from stress here.

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