When disciplining a child the focus should always be on the behavior of the child, not the child himself. No children are bad children; it’s the behavior that sometimes needs a bit of work.
Since the terms “good” and “bad” have such strong emotional connotations, are subjective and can significantly impact how a child feels about himself when he hears them, it’s best to refer to behaviors as acceptable and not acceptable instead. These terms take the emotional sting out of the terminology and allow a child to focus on something he can control, his behavior, instead of what he can’t control, who he is.
When focusing on a child’s unacceptable behavior, it’s important that a nanny validates the child’s feelings without validating his behavior. When a nanny accepts and recognizes a child’s feelings as valid it helps the child to feel understood and help further him on his path to emotional regulation. When a nanny validates a child’s feeling she is also in a position to model appropriate and acceptable ways of expressing those feelings.
For example, when a nanny says “I understand that you’re mad that your sister took your truck, but when we are mad we say ‘I am mad’, we don’t hit. Can you say ‘I’m mad?’” she helps a child to label his feelings, to understand what specific behavior was not acceptable and to experience an alternative and acceptable way of expressing his feelings. When this type of guidance is given consistently, the modeled behavior will eventually become the child’s default behavior when he’s experiencing similar feelings.