Is there such a thing as naughtiness?
A book was recently released, called “there’s no such thing as naughty” by an author called Kate Silverton, (click the link which will take you to Amazon if you’d like to find out more about it) which recently sparked a conversation within my Facebook Group, which was so interesting. There was a lot of discussion around how we see naughtiness, is it bad behaviour or is it a sign a child is struggling in communicating something?
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“I am a big believer in all behaviour being communication. There’s always an underlying reason for the behaviour.”
I’m not a believer in the word naughty. I think when we look at it through a different lens, we can see it very differently.
I don’t believe any child actively chooses to be naughty.
Children might be doing things which are perceived as naughty because that feeling they get feels very familiar, or it might be the way they’ve learned to get connection – even getting told off means their parent is talking to them. They might do something that gets their sister or brother in trouble, so that it makes them feel really good and look like the perfect sibling. There is a reason for them seeking that feeling.
I genuinely don’t believe children are just trying to be naughty
For me, when we think about the phrase “all behaviour is communication” – there is no such thing as being naughty. They might do things that are perceived by an adult as being “naughty”, but that is that child’s way of communicating in that moment. It might be that they don’t know how else to tell you that they’re struggling, or they want a hug, or they want to sit and play with you for a little while. They may feel that being naughty is the only way for them to get your attention.
Now I’m not saying that’s the case for all families. There will be lots of children with differing needs and they may have learnt that behaviours that look like naughty behaviours are the way to keep themselves safe, or to get the attention that they need, or even deflect attention from them. But that doesn’t mean that behaviour isn’t a form of communication. They’re still communicating something to us, they’ve just learned a different ways of doing it.
Thinking about it from this perspective changes the way we see these behaviours. We start to think “I wonder what they’re trying to tell us” instead of “they’re just a naughty child”. When we see it from that different lens, we respond differently. It allows us to think about what that child really needs.
Do they need my attention more often?
Do they need my presence more often?
Do they have something else they’re trying to communicate?
When we look more closely under the surface, then we can start to see what our child is trying to communicate and help them think about other ways of communicating with us that support their mental and physical health and that may be less destructive for them and for those around them.
Children want to be happy, they want to be healthy, they want to be loved.
So if they’re doing things that make you think they don’t want those things, it’s important to look at what it is they’re trying to tell us.
As parents the more we can support our children to manage and understand themselves, the less we’re going to see those “naughty” behaviours. It takes time and patience – with yourself as well as with your child – but the impact of your letting your child know that you see them and are trying to understand the communication they’re showing you is a huge part of building that stronger connection with them and removing the behaviours we think of as “naughty”.
Next time your child does something you think is naughty, try flipping it on it’s head. Try asking yourself what’s it might be they’re trying to tell you.
If you are a parent or carer and would like more support on this how to work on changing your child’s behaviour, you can come and join us over in The Connective Parenting hub, where I do weekly Ask Me Anything sessions to help you with exactly this!
If you’re a professional who works with children and families, click here for more helpful resources and support.