Friday, December 17, 2010

No Naughty Children Here

Santa has a list. He checks it twice to see who has been naughty and who has been nice. I’ve always hated that depiction of Santa, yet have been guilty myself of warning my children that they better be good or they’ll end up on the dreaded naughty list. A punitive Santa – a guy who will retaliate against a kid for their bad behavior by denying them toys on the one day of the year when everyone should get a present. Not a nice concept when you really sit down and think about it. We want our children to behave nicely regardless of the threat of the naughty list. But anyone who has children knows that just doesn’t happen and we need everything (from bribes to threats) to keep them in line.

But really, when you think about it, for the most part, there are no naughty children. There are children who are scared, misunderstood, frustrated, tired and hungry. There are children whose parents are impatient or distracted or frustrated in their own right and taking it out on their kids. Under those circumstances, those kids are going to act out, they are going to misbehave and they will end up with the naughty label and their name on the dreaded list.

Recently, when my kids were going bonkers one afternoon and really making me crazy, I started to lay into them, shouting (or barking as my daughter likes to describe it) and ordering them about. But before I exploded, I stopped for a moment and tried to think about how we went from peaceful morning to afternoon anarchy with more bad behavior than you’d find in congress on any given day. I caused it. Not my children. They were behaving badly, naughty enough to end up on the list, but they got there because I had been rushing them, not listening to what they were saying, misinterpreting their actions and yelling at them because of it. My bad behavior incited their bad behavior. Now I’m not saying my kids are angels or that they never behave badly on their own. There are too many instances for me to mention of them crossing the line from good little girls to unholy terrors. In fact, one of my oldest friends affectionately calls them “Children of the Corn.” But in this particular instance, they were naughty not nice because of parental bad behavior. I think, probably more often then we’d like to admit, it is our own unfortunate reactions to things, our own bad behavior which brings out undesirable behaviors in our children. Conversely, we can bring out the nice as easily as we can incite the naughty. I’m only hoping my behavior doesn’t earn me a spot the naughty list this year!

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