September 10th, 2014
What parent has not heard of the ‘naughty Step’? It is one of the main sound bites from the Super Nanny program with Jo Frost and indeed if I earnt money for every one of my clients who mentions discipline and the naughty step in the same sentence I would be a millionaire!
If you are one of many parents who has used it and feels a failure for not being able to make it work, either because your child will not stay there and you end up physically manhandling or he thinks it’s a game and starts laughing at you and blowing raspberries in your face or it has no impact on changing the behaviour – you are not alone! Join the posse of parents who have had the same experience.
Don’t blame yourself if you have experienced this, as the idea of the naughty step is fundamentally flawed.
The naughty step and other punitive and shaming forms of dealing with misbehaviour seem to work in a fashion - i.e. they can quell a particular behaviour in the moment, but the unintended results are often:
Do you recall the incident last Christmas when a little girl broke a bauble whilst shopping with her Mummy in John Lewis’s and John Lewis then used Face Book to show the world how this little girl had cleared up her mistake?
How effectively you react in the moment depends on your ability to see all misbehaviour as a teachable moment and an opportunity to allow your child to clear up her mistakes.
Clearly this little girl’s parents had established a system of positive discipline so she had an opportunity to put right her mistake and will no doubt have felt better for it. I wonder how she would have felt if her parents had punished her by placing her on the naughty step?
A more positive approach to discipline doesn’t amount to permissiveness and it really works. Our experience is that telling off kids or pointing out what they are doing wrong just DOES NOT WORK and often results in the same misbehaviour at a later date.
So here’s a step by step guide to what to do and say when your child misbehaves:
If child says ‘I didn’t mean to’ don’t lecture her on how that doesn’t matter and that the harm is still done. Descriptively praise the child for not meaning to.
“I’m so glad that you didn’t mean to. It means a lot to me. It shows me that you know it wasn’t the right thing to do and that maybe you wouldn’t have done it if you’d thought about it.”
Explore with the child (without judgment) how the behaviour happened. Don’t just ask why did you do that? This is so that everyone can learn from the episode –maybe something needs to be altered for the future.
“You’re probably sorry inside your head –when you’re ready you’ll also need to apologise out loud. You’re probably wishing you hadn’t done this.”
Sometimes just clearing up the mess (eg washing the ink off the walls) is enough to help them alter their behaviour ….but shouting at them would not!
Go on - next time your child gets something wrong try this Mistakes Process and see the results – we guarantee they’ll be much more effective than the naughty step. Let us know what your experiences of using the naughty step have been. What consequences have you used that you think really taught your child something.
Elaine and Melissa
PS You too should use the Mistakes Process if you feel you got something wrong. This would be very powerful modelling that cleaning up mistakes does not diminish one but is what a good person does.