"He’s a Bad Boy!"

That’s what my son told me when picked him up from school today. One of his classmates had pinched him and he was very upset. Logan is by no means innocent of pinching. No, he pinches just as hard and often as the next kid, but hates being on the receiving end. Of course!

What got me was how quckly he labled his classmate as a bad person. Remember we are talking about kindergardeners here. I asked Logan why he was saying that, and apparently he had heard his teacher call the other boy bad when he did stuff like hit and pinch.

So I took some time to explain to Logan the difference between doing something that is bad and actually being a bad person, and I began to recall something I had read years ago in regards to discipline – never lable your child or they will end up living up to it. Since it is such a habit for me, I wrongly assumed other adults were aware of it too, which is why Logan’s statement about his teacher surprised me so much.

We often forget that children, especially between the ages of 2 and 5, are just learning which actions are acceptable and which are not. Children lash out and hurt each other because they don’t know how else to react when a friend or classmate does something they don’t like. Hurting each other is like a built-in self-defense mechanisim.

Children will only learn other methods of working out problems from us, their parents and teachers, and it is imperative that we explain and demonstrate the behavior we want them to learn in a calm manner. Yelling at them to stop hitting is usually counterproductive. I know because I’ve tried it. Like any mother, I will get frustrated with their meanness to each other and I will yell and threaten, but I shouldn’t because I know better. When I do stop to talk to them and I handle it calmly, they are more likely to sort out their differences and get along better.

Here are some tips to remember when you are faced with hurtful behavior from your child.

– Never call your child bad. Do that often enough and your child will see themselves as bad and they will wonder why they should even try to be good.

– When your child does something that hurts someone else, first let them know that it is the action that is bad. Say, “Pinching the baby was a bad thing to do.” Never say, “You are a bad boy for pinching the baby.”

– Next, explain why what they are doing is bad, and why they shouldn’t do it. Ie. “Pinching is bad because it hurts and we shouldn’t hurt people.”

– A further step would be to show them how they should act instead. You could say, “We touch people gently” while taking their hand and showing them what a gentle touch is. Show your child how to gently pat or stroke the child they hurt on the arm or hand.

– After that, it is good to teach them to apologise. For a toddler who isn’t verbal yet, you can teach them an action that they can do when they hurt someone. Maybe they could pat the person or give a kiss. At first you will have to walk them through the action while saying “I’m sorry.” That way they connect the action with the words. A child who can talk can learn to say “I’m sorry” and maybe they could do something nice for the person they hurt.

This kind of training doesn’t belittle the child; instead it helps them see that they are capable of acting in a good way, plus it gives them a life skill that they will be able to use in the future. We all want our children to be good, but it is the way we say it that will encourage or discourage them.

Do you have a story or tips you would like to share along these lines? Please do so in the comments.

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5 Comments

  1. It surprises me too that a teacher would take the "bad boy" approach. Hopefully it was a moment of frustration rather than her usual message.

    Reply
  2. Good reminder thanks! This is a great post for all moms..

    Reply
  3. Great posts and great tips! I would be a little worried though that the teacher referred to such a young kid as a "bad boy", but maybe it was taken out of context.

    Reply
  4. I couldn’t agree more! No adult should judge kids morally as “bad” ever. As a former teacher, I can’t believe this!

    Reply

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