No Such Thing as a Bad Child

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sad girl at windowThere are no such thing as bad children. They may be rambunctious, inquisitive, impulsive, stubborn, uncooperative, even rebellious or disobedient. None of these words means “bad.” We use the word “bad” to describe food that has gone moldy, a terrible accident, extreme weather, terrorists and serial killers.

We must eliminate such a strong, derogatory, demeaning, judgmental label when we are talking to, or about, children. While we are at it, we could just as well eliminate the word “good,” because this implies there are good and bad children. Children may be cooperative, gentle, obedient, reliable and responsible, but this does not make them fundamentally “better” people than their less accommodating siblings or peers.

Words like “good” and “bad” are used, ostensibly, to motivate children. However, telling someone they are bad does not make them want to be good. In fact, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would not be surprised, if one could study the backgrounds of delinquent teens, to find they had been called “bad” from very early on. Consequently, they did not see themselves as part of the group, be it family or classroom, thus becoming psychological “outsiders.”

Labeling children as “bad” also sets them up to be scapegoated or bullied by their classmates or siblings. They think they can get away with it because parents or teachers are much more likely to blame the “bad” one, regardless of what really happened.

Calling a child “bad” is bullying, and creates deep psychological scars, especially when done by an adult, or condoned by one when other children do it.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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