Mum-of-two Geraldine Walsh reveals why the naughty step may not work, and what to try instead.
Many of us are long past taking the naughty step out when our child misbehaves. We are shifting towards more positive parenting when it comes to managing difficult behaviour.
Why the naughty step does not work.
Research has shown using the naughty step can influence our children’s behaviour but not necessarily in a positive way. Further studies show how ineffective this method of punishment is, in particular for children under three. Children of this age are unable to regulate their emotions and will not learn from being isolated from friends and family, even momentarily.
The naughty step is considered a quick fix solution in managing behaviour but comes with long term, negative consequences. It rarely helps the child to understand the situation, solve the problem and may be psychologically damaging. As a punishment, it is a negative time out which encourages the child to associate with the label of being bold or naughty.
Our children often need guidance in understanding their behaviour and what is considered socially appropriate. How can we manage tantrums and unreasonable behaviour without using seclusion and banishments? Psychologists and early childhood experts recommend using reason when facing a distinctive tantrum or difficult behaviour. The goal here is to connect with our children rather than bark orders or give out loudly.
Attempting to discipline our children using reason, nurturing and gentle parenting, aims to teach them about empathy and self-control. Positive discipline is not about being permissive but rather attaching ourselves to our kids and being aware of what makes them tick. By talking, understanding and supporting our children instead of screaming, ordering and scolding them, we can help them figure out the situation and a solution. In this way, they can recognise the unacceptable behaviour and over time, hopefully no longer act out in certain ways.
Understanding our children’s emotions.
Instead of reprimanding our kids, we can talk with them and figure out what they are looking to get out of the situation. For example, for the child who throws their homework on the floor and shouts because they are frustrated, break down the homework for them. Sit with them through their frustrations, rather than shout at them for throwing and shouting. And for the toddler who bites or hits another child, rather giving out or telling them not to do that, remove them from the situation. Stay with them and explain that they should be gentle with their hands and that biting is only for food. Aim to understand why they are angry and why they reacted in such a way.