Thursday, January 25, 2018


Sometimes children are naughty.

Naughty is a somewhat old fashioned word with the definition: disobedient; badly behaved. "Naughty" can be contextual too--what one teacher or parent considers good behavior or bad behavior may differ depending on context.

It's natural for children to be naughty sometimes, and it's important to think about the roots of that behavior--why is a child naughty, and what can you do about it?

Sometimes students are naughty simply because they get too silly. They're having fun with friends and cannot see past the fun as they laugh, pretend, exaggerate, and play. That kind of behavior is typically fairly easy to reign in, or counteract with a bit of needed, extra play time.

In other cases, students can be "naughty" because they don't clearly understand the directions or expectations. They might simply not know how to act in a particular situation. Perhaps the expectations are not explicit, or the child didn't infer the expected behavior. In cases like this, we have to be more explicit with the expectations. A good conversation is a positive way to deal with this kind of situation.

Then there are children who continually don't do the right thing. Again and again they are off task with little interest or concern for the expectations set. These children's behavior screams with "Notice Me," "Look at Me," and "Can't You Tell I Need More." This is the most challenging kind of "naughty" as this behavior is a sign that something deeper is going on. Perhaps a child is holding a worrisome secret, experiencing trying times, is mistreated, or suffering from an unshared or unknown physical ailment, emotional trauma, or struggle with self esteem. When this occurs, educators have to work together, with family members, and perhaps others to try to unpack the issue and figure out how to help children who do this. What's going on to make a child act so differently than others? Is the cause physical, emotional, and/or environmental?

In general what most children need is quite simple to name, but not always simple to provide. Children need good nutrition, a mostly predictable schedule, plenty of rest, time to play, learning by reading, writing, practicing math, and engaging in positive learning experiences, attention and lots and lots of love. Children who are tired, overworked, undernourished, and unloved, suffer and generally act out with disobedience and bad behavior due to this.

When children are naughty, it can be frustrating as the misbehavior can stand in the way of a positive learning experience for all, deeper learning, class happiness, and safety, yet we have to find ways to deal with that behavior with compassion, kindness, and care as when children are naughty, they are mostly sending us a message that they have unmet needs of some kind, needs that we have to meet.

In the best of circumstances, we are building teaching/learning environments where the will or need to be naughty beyond a natural level doesn't exist, environments where there is considerable space, time for play, nutritious foods, engaging learning experiences, and plenty of just-right support for the needs that exist. I want to think more about this.