Why we never use the word naughty on our children

Words are a powerful thing. Be careful what you say to your children and what others say to them. It can be tricky for children, especially young children to separate themselves from their actions. For example, you may say to a child ‘naughty’, ‘or that’s naughty’. For the child they might identify as naughty. You as an adult may be referring to the child’s behaviour or action, but that child cannot differentiate it.  So, we simply never used that word on them. Sometimes, others mentioned it, my kids were aware of what it meant, but we always changed the words. We would say no, or that’s not nice or kind.

Children will see themselves as naughty not their actions– Children usually see things either black or white, the grey zone is unfamiliar especially in their earlier years. It is either yes or no (not maybe), good or bad, naughty or nice. You get the idea. So, telling a young child what you did is naughty is that same as calling them naughty. However, if you say to them that’s not nice, they will know to aspire to be nice or to do nice things. They will recognise that you want the opposite of what they are doing.

They will live up to the words they hear frequently– Children are like sponges, this is why one of the first words you hear your toddler say is no! This is because it’s the word they hear the most. When they hear the word naughty all the time, they will say it and also do it. When they are naughty they get mummy or daddy’s attention. Children love attention whether negative or positive. Therefore, we should focus on their good behaviour and actions, praise and celebrate those then the child will want to repeat the good behaviour. This is positive reinforcement. As parents, we should strive to do this rather than negative reinforcement.

It gives other people permission to use that word on your child- I have seen teachers label children in school settings and this saddens me. If any of my children told me that their teacher or any adult called them naughty or monster or terror (or so-called pet/nickname that has a negative connotation) I will be having words. I refuse it, I don’t use it and I will nip that in a bud, thank you. It’s not cute, it’s not funny and it is unacceptable.

We try to choose our words carefully because they either give life or take it– Many years ago, I worked in a preschool setting and there was a little boy whose mum’s pet name for him was monster called him monster. I tell you, he lived up to that name, he was a lovely child, but his behaviour was monstrous. My children are getting older, and still I am very careful the words I speak over them. I don’t always get it right, sometimes I catch myself saying to them, you are annoying me, or you are disturbing me, I am human, and these things happen. Sometimes, I apologise to them and explain that I was busy/ or in the middle of something. And next time I try to choose my words carefully.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, do let me know what you think and don’t forget to get my free eBook. Subscribe to my newsletter that way you get an email as soon as I upload a new blog. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

Comments (4)

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    Ebony laleye

    Such a great read.
    Saying to a child ” you are annyouing me ” or “disturbing me ” does this statement have an effect on them. I say this quit offten . Can you share more light on this saying.

    Reply

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      Loveth Okoli

      Hi Ebony, we are all guilty of this. It is important that we explain to them in better terms what we meant. We also have to reassure them that they are important and hopefully we can create a more positive impact and build their confidence and self image.

      Reply

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    Gladys

    Great read. ‘Annoying me or disturbing me’ reflecting on it now sound like rejection. I am so guilty of it as I use it whenever I am stressed out.. Thanks for sharing

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Loveth Okoli

      I agree, it does sound like rejection. We are humans and we should be able to admit to our children that we don’t always get it right and apologise to them if necessary. Thanks for your contributions

      Reply

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