The myth of the badly behaved child

The myth of the badly behaved child

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We all have a deep desire for perfect kids as that would, in turn, make us feel good about ourselves. When they do not fall into the socially prescribed narrative of ‘good kids’, we try to ‘fix them’ by criticising, complaining, shaming and blaming them. And when they push back in frustration, we react with anger and censure.


Our relationship with our children is like an emotional bank account — we make deposits but we also make withdrawals. The deposits are in the form of spending time, playing, chatting, hugging, cuddling, words of recognition, making them feel special by doing things for them and so on, whereas the withdrawals could be criticism, comparison, shaming, blaming, complaining, hitting, abusing etc. 

However, it is only when the withdrawals outweigh the deposits that the emotional bankruptcy manifests in the form of aggressive behaviour, lying, stealing, rudeness, not listening etc. We are quick to label these ‘behavioural problems’ which needs ‘disciplining’ but we do little to understand the underlying emotions which might be causing them.

There are some children who are more vulnerable to a higher level of ‘withdrawal’ from this emotional bank account – for example, children with learning difficulties, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, or other disabilities. All these children are wired differently and do not fit the society’s criteria of a ‘good child’.

Then there are children who are emotionally intense and struggle to regulate their emotions or are going through difficult transitions in their life such as family conflicts, parents’ divorce or childhood trauma. Sometimes it is very difficult for them to identify or express their feelings.

Let’s look at ways we can flip the energy and strengthen our Connect:

  • Acceptance: Can you imagine how wonderful it would be if every child got the message, “I love you just the way you are. You are unique, you are different, you are you.”
  • Mindfulness: The greatest gift we can give our children in the present-day world is our attention. 
  • Empathy: We have to work with our children and not against them.
  • Recognition: Recognise every smallest thing he did well.


( Credit: Excerpts from original article by Shelja Sen )