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Parents who Look for Bad Behavior Find It

Nov 12, 2010 | By Harvey Craft

Mistakes are part of learning and growing. Everyone makes mistakes and kids need parents who understand that the path to maturity isn't always a smooth one.

Young boy misbehaving with paintFriedrich Nietzsche wrote some good advice for parents when he penned the words, "Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful." People who see punishment as the first option to deal with troubling behavior in children may be setting the child up for problems.

Is Punishment a Bad Thing for Children?

A lot depends on what parents mean by punishment. Sometimes it simply means that something unpleasant will happen, but the important thing to understand is that there is psychologically no reason to have an unpleasant consequence waiting every time a child errs.

Most parents can apply punitive procedures without harm. It seems harmless to use techniques like time out or a slap on the butt. Kids who understand that their parents love them manage to endure such punitive measures without apparent harm. But doing something negative to a child to produce positive behavior seems like a contradiction, and if parents want to raise children who obey rules why not be try a positive approach if it works as well as better?

Try to Encourage Positive Behavior Through Recognition and Praise

Mother praising childSince people are expected to do the right thing, it tends to be ignored. Of course as kids begin to talk and walk and do those things that make parents go nuts, kids get lots of positive reinforcement, and it generally works quite well in hastening the development of the desired behavior. Parents don't think of punishing a child if he doesn't initially pronounce word well or if he trips and falls while learning to walk. But those are not bad behaviors.


But is a lie from a six year old "bad"? It's probably not in the strictest sense. What's wrong with it is that adults think all lying is bad. Kids take time to develop that inner voice that tells them that what they're doing is wrong. So why not pay better attention to kids and praise truthful behavior and discuss with them problems created with untruthful behavior? It actually works.

Sometimes Parents Aren’t Satisfied With the Speed of Moral Development

If children could, they might be inclined to tell parents, "What is your problem? I'm a kid here. Teach me what you want me to do." But parents are frightened or feel inadequate when kids backslide. That's normal too, and can be managed by sitting the child down and talking it out and continuing to reinforce good behavior by praise.

If children know that they have no room for error they are likely to hide mistakes from parents, or develop secret patterns of behavior for fear of being punished. School teachers know well that there is often a huge gap between what parents think their angel is doing and what he is really like when mom and dad are not aware.

Parents Must Expect Children to be Children

Young girl screamingParents must not try to produce the perfect child – there aren't any, but there are lots who are wonderful additions to the human race and who don't have to live under constant fear of being punished. Punishment can have another bad side effect – it teaches children that causing physical or emotional pain is okay. If punishment is used, parents better be sure that it is not mean-spirited punishment. Mean children almost always have parents whom they perceived as mean.

Parents would do well to not spend all their time waiting for the kid to do something wrong so they can apply punishment. It can cause lots of stress and guilt – not good. Ease off, talk to children, and encourage children to do the right thing.

Don't Expect Bad Behavior but be Prepared

Parents need a plan and they need to apply it consistently.

  • Don't lose it when children misbehave. Children will see what self-control looks like.
  • Try not to be unnecessarily and constantly critical. Children will cynicism.
  • Model good behavior. Children will copy respected adults.
  • Try to express things positively. Children will be less negative.
  • Don't spank. Children will learn that hitting is not okay.
  • Praise good behavior. Children will learn how to make others feel good.
  • Be sure feel loved. They will return love.

Kids need to know right from wrong and they need parents who can teach them. Encourage good behavior by praise. Not all punishment is harmful, but it may not be necessary or as effective as positive discipline. Kids are kids and should be expected to err now and then. If parents look for bad behavior they will find it. Parents should have a plan and apply it consistently. Good behavior has roots in and is nourished by love.

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : children, kids, child, bad behavior, parenting

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