Why are people so caught up on the usage of the words GOOD & BAD?
Does it seem a bit too philosophical for you?
Never mind that! We will explain it clearly. Let’s just take a look at some definitions first.
1 [bad] Show IPA adjective, worse, worst; ( Slang )bad·der, bad·dest for 36; noun; adverb
[good] Show IPA adjective, bet·ter, best, noun,interjection, adverb
When you call a child “good” or “bad” you are inadvertently building up or tearing down their formative opinion of themselves. “Good” and “bad” are arbitrary labels given to behaviors that occur at a moment in time, but often used as a blanket statement to describe a whole person. Truth be told, we all possess some good & bad, yet we know in our hearts that most of the time we are doing the best we can do with what we have been given.
Scenario #1: You go out and leave your child with another new babysitter. You know he isn’t the easiest kid to babysit, and you are aware that without firm boundaries he may act out. As expected, your child throws a fit as you walk out the door. Then he calms down and makes cupcakes with the babysitter. He uses manners, talks about others kindly during the task and enjoys baking. The child refuses to help clean the kitchen, so the babysitter cleans while the child watches TV. The child and the babysitter spend an hour mutually enjoying playing with toys. The child refuses to pack up his/her toys when the babysitter asks. The child acts out, throws a fit which escalates to knocking over furniture and slamming doors. The babysitter can’t handle the behavior so she calls you to let you know that the situation isn’t working out.
Is this child “bad”?
Was he not “good” in any manner or degree? Did he possess wicked or evil character? Was he defective or faulty?
Sure, this wasn’t great behavior – but how was it handled by the adult in the situation? In my opinion, he wasn’t set up for success by the adults in his life – then if you called him “bad” for failing to perform at a higher standard it would seem to me a little unfair.
Scenario #2: You go out and leave your child with a babysitter. He has had the same babysitter for a year and generally listens to her instructions. The babysitter assists your child with the transition, and the child happily waves goodbye to you before making cupcakes with the babysitter. After baking, he doesn’t want to help clean up. The babysitter acknowledges that cleaning up isn’t fun but it is part of life, then gives him a specific kitchen task. Once he is finished his part of the cleaning up process, he watches TV. The babysitter and child spend 45 minutes playing with toys before she gives him warnings that they will need to pack up soon. She sets an alarm for him to turn off when it is time to pack up. The babysitter and child pack up together while acting like dogs, in order to make it a fun game. The parents come home to a happy child and clean house.
Is this child “good”?
Was he morally excellent and virtuous? Was he well-behaved of excellent quality?
His behavior was fairly easily modified by the adult who followed through on instructions. He also had an existing bond with this person, and it is likely that his past experiences would indicate that he has built up a memory bank of trust for her boundaries. He knew what to expect, with clear instructions he complied to her will. Is that “good” on his behalf or hers?
So what is wrong with calling your child “good”?
If “good” and “bad” describe behaviors that occur at a moment in time, labeling each action with an identity is about as effective as a yo-yo diet. If you can be “good” one minute, and “bad” the next – can you also be loved one minute and not the next? Do we love our kids more when they do exactly what we ask of them? Does the candle burn a little less bright when they act out?
Here’s the thing: Your child’s behavior won’t get better if you don’t take the reigns of the situation. You are the parent – there is no magic wand to change what is happening. Your child loves you so much and depends on you for guidance. Your unconditional love, support & presence will bring change. Describing your child’s behavior at times will be necessary – let’s try words like; challenging, difficult, upsetting, hurtful, energetic, all-over-the-place, loving, considerate, helpful or focused. Instead of, “Was he good today?” we could try, “How was his day?” Instead of, “He was bad today, so we can’t go out for dinner,” let’s try, “He made some unsafe choices today, so as a consequence we won’t be able to go out tonight. Let’s try again tomorrow.”
What can you change about your behavior to set your child up for success?