Just as I’m allergic to colour labelling babies, the very common and so rooted generations feedback of “good girl”or “naughty girl” is also a “no no ” in my family. To me – it’s also negative branding that can result in long lasting harm.
Although Arya is still a baby and probably not understanding the difference, we use (Sanj tries, cause linguistic nuances are his Achilles heel) “well done” instead of “good girl” and I refuse to call any baby or child “naughty”.
Just because a baby cries, has a tantrum or pulls the tablecloth off the table he is far from misbehaving and every person who reads a bit on psychology knows that. The first two are the results of frustration or pain. The latter one – parent’s negligence. When a child “ACTS” naughtily this is a representation of a glitch in parenting, lack of communication between the child and parents, child’s confusion about parents/society expectations. Because what does it mean “naughty”? We very often use it too causally towards our children or others but what we consider “naughty” is not necessarily seen “naughty” by society and vice versa. Moreover, probably we do mean: “you act naughtily” and it’s just a semantic shortcut. I’ve heard “You’re such a naughty boy/girl” far too many times. In my eyes, the comment: “You are being naughty” causes much less harm than “You are naughty” as it refers to a current moment rather than a trait of a child. Although I’m not a biggest fan of this phrase either as every statement with “You ARE” is still assigning an attribute with a adjective that follows. I know it seems petty and while reading this post you feel like you were somehow redirected to some blog on linguistics but no, I have always understood the power of words (and how much I myself have to learn in this department from the application point of view). Having studied communication and information management, children psychology and teaching methodology and having experience as a teacher, nanny and now a mother, and, let’s not diminish the role of this – having been a child myself, I have observed and studied a huge impact of words on the behaviour of a human. No, I don’t consider myself an authority in any shape and form – I’m far from that. What I’m trying to say is that throughout years my hobby sort of interest has been focused on the correlation between communication and language on people’s behaviour and I shaped my opinions based on my various observations. I’ve noticed (among my family circles as well as my ex students of different ages) that the more the child heard “You are so naughty” the more he/she was engrossed in this label. Because think how hard it is for all of us to suddenly start acting differently when we already have an opinion coined about us. How hard it is for us to apply for a job in a completely different field than the one we’ve been in for years? No one is interested in the fact that you have a certain set of skills that you were mustering outside your job – the social perception is that if you have been an accountant for 10 years you probably are only good at that and that one thing only.
When one hears “YOU ARE NAUGHTY” repeatedly – most likely they will develop one of the two extreme patterns:
they will accept it and will expect it so if they are doing something wrong they are not disappointing anyone. They might wish to change it but don’t know how so they give up and continue “doing naughty things”.
Or they will persistently try to “be a good boy/girl”, by excelling in everything or trying to excel in everything and never be happy about the result. In the most extreme cases – this will understandably cause frustration, self-depreciation and constant dissatisfaction with ones life.
Both of these routes, however, will stem from one very same belief: “I AM NAUGHTY HENCE…”.
It’s a bit more complicated and a topic for a book but I hope this post gives at least some idea. Of course – this is only my point of view, which I admit, I imposed on San-Jay in regards to bringing our daughter. I want to stick to it and verbally reward or criticise the ACTION (explaining the reason) rather than tell Arya what SHE IS or what SHE ISN’T. Therefore she won’t hear from us: “good girl” or “naughty girl”.
I would love to hear your opinions and comments on this.