It is important not to make one child in a family or classroom the ‘bad child.’ Adults may do this unintentionally by repeatedly chastising a child in front of others. Siblings or classmates pick up on this very quickly, and think it is okay to criticize that child, because they have seen adults do it. Consequently, the ‘bad’ child gets picked on and eventually strikes back.
Because of his or her ‘bad’ status, the adults will tend to believe the others when they blame this child for the trouble resulting from their taunting. A vicious, self-fulfilling cycle is set into motion from which it is nearly impossible for the ‘bad’ one to extricate himself.
Eventually he gives up trying to prove or defend himself, and accepts the ‘bad’ label and all the accompanying behaviors. Clearly this has a major negative impact, and can do lifelong damage to this child’s self-esteem.
It is the adult’s responsibility to validate the child even while disapproving of the behavior. It is the adult’s challenge to remind other children that just because this one individual is struggling with rules and cooperation, that does not give them license to become ‘deputy’ adults, meting out criticisms or chastisements.
The challenging child provides an opportunity for adults to model unconditional love and support. The irony is that when adults do this, other children will pick up on that and do it too. Surrounded by acceptance and positive regard, the difficult child will likely become much more willing to cooperate. This is a crucial point, as often the reason children act out in the first place is because they want love and attention, or because they feel neglected, rejected, or just not good enough.
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Related MP3s Available:
Thinking for Yourself (Empowerment for Youth)
My Special Friends (for Young Children)
Conflict Resolution in Relationships