Before becoming a Dad, for some reason I used to watch the Channel 4 show, ?Supernanny? with Jo Frost. I don?t think I really did so to prepare for becoming a parent. I was simply fascinated with the transformation from bold to pleasant, well behaved child.
It was through this programme that I learnt of the naughty step, a disciplinary technique that Jo appeared to use in every episode. At the time I said to myself that if I ever had children, I would definitely use it.
Fast forward a few years to when my eldest turned two. We were having some difficulties with temper tantrums and decided to introduce the naughty step. We went from bawling crying for the first few attempts at the step to her actually going to the step by herself when she knew she was bold.
It’s important to have boundaries in place when teaching a child to behave. Children need to be reminded of the rules and a way of letting them know when they have gone too far has to be introduced. Of course ensuring those boundaries are adhered to is the hard part.
The naughty step involves the child spending some time out, on their own where they can think about what they did wrong. It usually works out at 1 minute on the step for each year of a childs life. So for example a 3 year old would spend about 3 minutes on the step. I?m not claiming that this will work for everyone, but it has so far worked for us and as such below are a few tips on how we go about using it effectively.
1.Give a warning
The naughty step shouldn?t be used as a first piece of punishment. A child needs to be told that if bad behaviour continues, they will be placed on the naughty step. This gives them the chance to stop being bold and avoid being punished. We give this warning in a very calm tone, keeping eye contact where possible (ie: if they aren?t running around the place!)
2.Sending them to the naughty step
You can decide how many warnings to give before the naughty step is introduced, but we generally just give one warning as we found early on that if we let it go beyond more than one warning, they knew we were being soft and played up on it.
Having said that it is important to stay calm when you finally do decide to put them on the naughty step. Show your child that you are in control by being firm in what you say, but by taking them gently by the hand and leading them to the step. It is important at this point to let them know why they are there and how long they will be there for. Now walk away!
Lots of literature will tell you that shouting at a child will actually scare and upset them and they won?t understand the reason why they are being punished. So remaining calm and explaining to your child is important.
3.Ignore, Ignore, Ignore
At this point, and particularly in the early days, we noticed that they would scream, shout, call for Mammy and Daddy, cry, make excuses etc. etc. We felt it was important to ignore this. The whole point of the step is that they remain quiet to think about their bad behaviour. They shouldn?t be engaging in conversation with you whilst there.
Of course it is so tempting to not ignore them and on more than a few occasions we gave in and engaged with them, but we quickly learnt that this was the wrong thing to do and defeated the purpose of the naughty step.
It is important though to stick to the time. So don?t leave a three year old on the step for 5 minutes. Chances are they are going to have forgotten why they are there at that point.
Jo Frost says that the naughty step is really only suitable for children between the ages of 2 and 6.
When the child has been on the step for the required amount of time, go over to them and explain again the reason they were put on the step. Tell them to apologise for their behaviour. This allows the child to understand that what they did was wrong and that by saying sorry, they can start afresh. We always follow this up with a hug and kiss to show them that of course we do still love them.
If the subject of their bad behaviour was another person (such as their brother or sister) we get them to say sorry and give a hug and a kiss to them also.
Sometimes it’s not as simple as just carrying out the above steps. They won?t work everytime, particularly in the early days. For example a child might continue to get up off the naughty step. By doing this they are simply testing you out to see if you will actually put them back on. It’s important to just take them gently by the hand again and place them on the step. You might find you will have to do this many times before they give in.
As I mentioned above it took us a while to get this right. Of course mistakes will be made and of course the child will be annoyed and upset by this, but we found that perseverance and consistency followed up by hugs and kisses works for us with our children. We are thankfully at the stage now where the mere threat of the naughty step is enough to change behaviour. We do still need to use it, but it’s gone from several times a day to probably only once every few weeks.
Now we just have to figure out what to do after age 6 !!