Many countries there is a tradition around this festive period to identify the ‘good’ children and the ‘naughty’ children. Here in Spain, children may receive a block of coal from the Three Kings signally “must do better”.
The Hollywood film industry thrives on the concept of Santa discerning who deserves a visit and he even checks his list twice.
Whilst there is little harm in good humour, and indeed a sense of humour is a great asset in developing full mental wealth; I believe we have to be careful in our parenting when it comes to labelling our children’s behaviour as “naughty”.
Before reading on it is important to note that I am not advocating a laisse faire style of parenting; our role as adults is to guide children from complete dependence to independence. In psychology speak we form strong attachments to our babies to allow healthy detachment later.
The evolutionary aim? Healthy adults who contribute to society in a way that moves the human race forward…..
This guidance requires clear boundaries, a baby needs to learn what is acceptable, safe and nurturing, so we do need some kind of discipline, but we have come to understand discipline as chastisement or punishment when in fact the word simply describes our role as parents and teachers:
The word “discipline” is from the Latin word disciplina meaning “instruction and training”. It’s derived from the root word discere — “to learn.” The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning “student”.*
Parents are naturally the best teachers for our student humans. It is only the structures and traditions of different societies that demand we discipline our children in a certain way – we can test our limiting beliefs and choose to teach our children our values etc, and we can choose non-violence, both physical and psychological. We can even consider carefully how or if we present the block of coal, allow our children to watch the Christmas films alone, without our instruction on the fact that the real myth is not whether Santa exists, but that children are not naughty!
An article by Erin Leyba Phd, author of the book “Joy fixes for weary parents”; offers us insight into how we can take a different perspective on ‘naughty’ behaviour.
1. Not controlling impulses.
Research suggests that the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a “long, slow process” …..56 % of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden, whereas most children don’t master this skill until age three-and-a-half or four …Reminding ourselves that kids can’t always manage impulses (because their brains aren’t fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.
28 % of Americans “always feel rushed” and 45 percent report having “no excess time” ….Kim John Payne, ……argues that children experience a “cumulative stress reaction” from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys.
He asserts that kids need tons of “down time” to balance their “up time”.
When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children’s behavior often improves dramatically.
3. Core conditions.
Little kids are affected tenfold by such “core conditions” of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick.
Kids’ ability to manage emotions and behaviour is greatly diminished when they’re tired. Kids can’t always communicate or “help themselves” to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can.
4. Expression of big feelings.
Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents “Let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions.
5. Developmental need for tons of movement.
“Sit still!” “Stop chasing your brother around the table!” ……..
Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement.……….Instead of calling a child “bad” when they’re acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.
6. Developmentally-wired to resist and become independent.
…….toddlers try to do things for themselves, and …preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own plans.
Even though it’s annoying when a child picks your tomatoes while they’re still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with 8 freshly-washed sheets, they’re doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing—trying to carry out their own plans, separate, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people.
7. Core strengths that trip them up.
Recognizing when a child’s unwelcome behaviors are really the flip side of their strengths—just like ours—can help us react with more understanding.
8. Fierce need for play.
Some of kids’ seemingly “bad” behaviors are what Gottman calls “bids” for you to play with them.
Kids love to be silly and goofy…….Play often takes extra time and therefore gets in the way of parents’ own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it’s not.
When parents build lots of playtime into the day, kids don’t need to beg for it so hard when you’re trying to get them out the door.
9. Reaction to parents’ moods.
…..research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions ……to pass from person to person, ……Kids especially pick up on their parents’ moods.
If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.
10. Response to inconsistent limits.
When parents are inconsistent with limits, it naturally sets off kids’ frustration and invites whining, crying, or yelling.
Just like adults, kids want (and need) to know what to expect.
Any effort toward being 100 percent consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will seriously improve children’s behaviour.**
Set those boundaries; make time for parenting and enjoy!