Why Children are Never Naughty (and what really causes their problem behaviour)

Children (whatever age!) are never just “naughty”. There is ALWAYS a reason for their behaviour. Naughty is the tip of the iceberg, it is a wholly inadequate word to describe what the child is experiencing and it sets us on the wrong path of discipline.

This is why I always look for the underlying causes of their behaviour, because only then can you help them with their unmet needs and struggles – and it’s only when you investigate the reasons that you can expect to see a genuine, long-lasting, positive change.

Common discipline methods that focus on quick fixes through ignoring, rewarding, praising and punishing are always ineffective because they are naive to the underlying reasons, they gloss over them and focus superficially on creating fear and compliance. They’re like sticking a plaster on an infected wound and hoping it goes away because you can’t see it temporarily, but we all know that what’s happening under the surface gets bigger and deeper. This is why so many who use these techniques struggle so much as their children get older.

What’s the alternative? In my Gentle Discipline Book I talk about asking 3 questions every time you are struggling with a behaviour:


Why is my child doing this? (look for the reason), How are they feeling (consider their emotions and empathise with them – leading to a more collaborative and connected solution) and What do I hope to gain from my discipline? (do you want to solve – or just palliate the problem). These questions are the answer to more holistic, mindful, long-term discipline solutions.

Of course, you also need to cope in the moment – what I call Emergency Discipline – this is about keeping people safe and stopping dangerous/harmful behaviours as they happen, but you must remember – this is NOT a complete discipline solution, so the behaviour will keep on happening, however well you handle it in the moment, until you work on the Why, the How and the What.

If this article has piqued your interest in gentle discipline, check out my new discipline book.  It is released under the title ‘The Gentle Discipline Book‘ in the UK and under the title ‘Gentle Discipline‘ in the USA and Canada. The book covers common tricky behaviours from babyhood right the way through to the teen years and how to cope with them in a gentle and effective way


p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

Or watch my videos on YouTube

You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

%d bloggers like this: