Calling a child 'naughty' can traumatise them, say experts
Parents should not call their youngsters 'naughty' because it damages their self-confidence, a childcare expert controversially claimed.
Annette Mountford, chief executive of the parenting organisation, Family Links, said that children's self-esteem is run down by such branding, even if they are behaving badly.
Parents must not shout at their youngsters and should only call their behaviour naughty, rather than saying they are naughty themselves.
They should also stop referring to the "naughty step" - a disciplining technique from TV's Supernanny - in case their child thinks the word refers to them.
She said misusing the word can affect the "mental health" of both the child and the subsequently guilt-ridden parent. But other family groups yesterday condemned the demands from the head of the charity, which receives funding from the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health.
They argued that families need to be able to discipline their children without being subjected to politically correct "clap trap".
Mrs Mountford spoke out after a National Family and Parenting Institute survey found that more than eight out of ten parents who watch TV programmes like Supernanny have found a technique such as the 'naughty step' helpful.
She told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "I would argue that using the word naughty is the problem.
"It's fine to be firm and consistent but you call that a naughty step and the child actually calls himself or herself naughty. That's really bad for them."
Despite quizzing, Mrs Mountford, who previously worked as a health visitor for 13 years, insisted that children are not naughty in themselves.
"Children have behaviour that is unacceptable and undesirable but I think if you use the word naughty it puts the parents and child in a really different frame set, in a much more antagonistic set," she said.
Parents should say: "What you have done is very naughty, I don't like the way you behaved" but not that 'you are naughty'.
"It's a very different message and very bad for a child's self confidence and self esteem," she said.
This can reinforce negative feelings and lead to more bad behaviour.
When asked whether she had ever shouted at a child, Mrs Mountford, who has two grown-up daughters, said: "Yes, of course I have, I'm human. But golly you feel awful afterwards.
"I'm interested in the parents' mental health. When you do lose it as a parent you feel dreadful and that ruins your day, ruins the child's day. They have a rotten time at school, you do at work or home."
She said that children do not quickly forget being shouted at, insisting that it "really goes deep".
Parents should think why their children are misbehaving as those with really challenging behaviour are in "a lot of pain". They should give their youngsters a "choice and a consequence" instead of shouting.
"It's the unhappy feelings that drive difficult behaviour," she added.
But Hugh McKinney, of the National Family Campaign, said it was "nonsense" to suggest that children are not naughty.
He said: "Parents bring up their children in a wide variety of ways but to allow children to indulge in naughty behaviour and not control it causes confusion, not only to the children but also to other family members as well.
"Commonsense surely dictates that this politically correct claptrap doesn't work and it's about time that state-funded organisations like Family Links stop telling us what to do with our lives."
Family Links promotes "emotional literacy" and "relationship skills" in schools and families.
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