Patty is a preschool teacher who has plenty of experience dealing with challenging children’s behavior. This fall when parents were bringing their children to school for the first time, Kyle’s parents told her “He’s a naughty child.” They referred to Kyle being naughty a number of times in front of him.
Did Kyle live up to his label? Yes! When he didn’t get attention, he would sometimes throw things, hit or spit.
Labeling a child as “bad” or “naughty” produces feelings of shame in that child. Those feelings can lead to acting out or withdrawing. In Kyle’s case, he turned to acting out.
When the teachers responded to his acting out by removing him or holding him down, his behavior escalated. Trying to punish him for his poor behavior made it worse.
What finally worked in changing Kyle’s behavior was to guide him to a secluded area with toys where he could calm down. After about 10 minutes the teacher returned to get Kyle and he was calm and ready to cooperate. When Kyle was treated in a respectful way that communicated the belief in his ability to choose better behavior, he chose that better behavior.