Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Bad Children Do Not Exist

There is no such thing as a bad child. Sure, there are kids who are badly behaved and act out. There are also ‘bad children’ who do drugs and steal. The person behind the behaviour isn’t bad even though their behaviour might be considered “bad”. I belonged to the bad children camp, I lied to my parents and ended up hanging out with the wrong crowd at school. Underneath though, I desperately wanted love and understanding. Instead of trying to support me and understand why I behaved the way I did, I was labelled a “bad child” and was punished and rejected by my parents.

Behind every unruly or difficult child there is usually an issue with their home life on some level. They are either bullied by their parents or siblings. They are suppressed, not allowed to show emotions (especially anger) or they are learning behaviours from their parents – such as domestic violence. The only exceptions  to this rule are children who may have a physiological disorder – such as ADHD or autism. When a disorder is ruled out – it is time to look at the home environment and upbringing of the child concerned.

I used to work with young offenders and without exception, they had all come from dysfunctional homes. Many felt unloved and were rarely supervised. Their parents constantly criticised them and displayed dysfunctional behaviours of their own. I am not saying that children from good, loving homes never end up rebellious but the majority of mixed up kids tend to come from dysfunctional homes with dysfunctional parents.

Misunderstood children

I’m a good example of this – my mother remarried and my step-father was treated like “God”. He could do no wrong and received special treatment. He got to watch what he wanted on TV (there was no sharing or compromise), he got to eat his favourite dishes (yuck – steak and kidney pie was one of his favourites) whilst my favourites were rarely cooked. He got to leave a mess around the house whereas if I left a teaspoon in the wrong place I got moaned at. I once asked my mother about this difference and she told me it was because my step-father paid the bills that he got special treatment. I was in high school at the time and felt this was a little unfair. There is so much more to this story but the point I am making is that when a child feels things are unfair, they aren’t always able to articulate it correctly, and even if they are, there is very little they can do about perceived injustices. As a result, many kids resort to passive-aggressive behaviour in order to try restore the balance. This is where the bad behaviour can come in.

If your child is difficult and rebellious, instead of reacting angrily, try to be supportive and figure out what is behind this behaviour. Children may be younger but they deserve as much respect as anyone else. They have the right to be considered in the family home and have their opinions listened to.

Instead of thinking that your child is behaving badly to upset you, understand that they may be trying to get a message through to you. Somewhere along the line they feel unheard or unfairly treated. If this has been going on for a while, do not expect positive results immediately. Be consistent with kind, caring behaviour and they will eventually get the message. Bad children are made, they aren’t born that way. You are the adult, they are the child – keep this in mind and never stoop down to their level by responding angrily or returning insults.

There would be far less delinquent behaviour and unhappy homes if parents took the time to understand the reasons for their children’s behaviour.

Mandy X

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