Nursery workers are banned from calling children ‘naughty’

More than nine in ten nursery workers are banned from calling children ‘naughty’ over fears it can cause ‘self-perpetuating’ bad behaviour

  • More than nine in ten nursery workers are not allowed to call children naughty
  • Nurseries fear that the word could cause ‘self-perpetuating’ bad behaviour
  • One nursery even uses an Ikea cushion as a ‘thinking cloud’ for unruly little ones

By Eleanor Harding for the Daily Mail

Published: 19:00 EDT, 26 June 2019 | Updated: 20:28 EDT, 26 June 2019

Generations of teachers have kept unruly children in line with a quick telling off and the threat of the ‘naughty step’.

But now, the word ‘naughty’ has been all but outlawed – as nurseries fear it could cause ‘self-perpetuating’ bad behaviour.

A poll of 1,000 nursery workers found that 95 per cent are not allowed to call children naughty and should use other ways to manage behaviour. 

The survey also found that 60 per cent of early years workers do not agree with having a ‘thinking chair’ or ‘naughty step’ in their nursery for when children misbehave – and only a quarter of staff use either technique [File photo]

The study, by reviews website daynurseries.co.uk, also found three in five do not like using the ‘naughty step’ or ‘thinking chair’ for giving children who have broken rules ‘time out’.

Jo Frost, star of Channel 4’s long-running series Supernanny, was a vocal advocate of putting children on the ‘naughty step’ to make them behave. 

For years, misbehaving children were routinely told they were naughty and sent to sit by themselves to think about their actions.

But recently, nurseries have started to fear such actions may cause the child to see themselves in a negative light.

Danielle Butler, operations director at Tommies Childcare in the Midlands, said children may feel ‘labelled’ as ‘naughty’ and instead urged nursery staff to manage bad behaviour with ‘positive reinforcement’. 

She added that while badly-behaved children are encouraged to reflect, it is not called ‘time out’.

The survey also found that 60 per cent of early years workers do not agree with having a ‘thinking chair’ or ‘naughty step’ in their nursery for when children misbehave – and only a quarter of staff use either technique.

Instead, staff are encouraged to take children to one side and talk them through why some things are acceptable and some are not.

Generations of teachers have kept unruly children in line with a quick telling off and the threat of the ‘naughty step’. But now, the word ‘naughty’ has been all but outlawed – as nurseries fear it could cause ‘self-perpetuating’ bad behaviour [File photo]

Sue Learner, editor of daynurseries.co.uk, said: ‘I do think if you label a child as naughty it can become self-perpetuating and lead to more bad behaviour.’

One nursery said it used an Ikea cushion as a ‘thinking cloud’ for unruly little ones.

Matthew Byrne, director of Crafty Wizards Pre-School in London, said: ‘Time out now has negative connotations as some settings do use it punitively, in a blanket way and without thought. If it is used regularly, without thought and without positive adult interactions then it is wrong. Used well, I think it does have a place in promoting positive behaviours.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Those who are against the naughty step need to be put on it themselves. Children need to be taught that their actions have consequences.’

He added: ‘Children want to know the difference between right and wrong, and the naughty step is a part of that. They are not like adults. They like clear rules and they are not in favour of this liberal, Left worldview. Of course, it needs to be used appropriately, and in moderation.’

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