There's more to 'naughty' than meets the eye
From the moment my son could walk down a street, it was clear he had a total inability to understand personal safety. He would run away, across roads or fields or playgrounds, out of sight and without looking where he was going. He did this no matter what I tried, but I persevered, hoping that vigilance and firmness would win. It never did, and one day I lost him. For five sickening, endless minutes I searched for him, knowing how unsafe he, in particular, was. From then, until he eventually learned how to walk safely, he wore reins. He was frequently annoyed by this and sometimes very vocal, but nothing else kept him out of harm's way.
On one occasion, as I insisted on the reins and he yelled back, I was berated in the street for restraining my son "like some kind of dog" whilst several other onlookers tutted and frowned and approved the general suggestion that I was a cruel parent harming an innocent boy. You can imagine how upsetting that was, and how frustrated I felt at not being able to explain.
The incident got me thinking. How many times have you judged a "badly behaved" child or "inappropriate" parenting? Before that experience, I made snap judgements plenty of times, and I feel ashamed when I think of them now. If I'd been a little more considerate I may have noticed something more.
Maybe that baby screaming on the bus is teething? That toddler running round and round the cafe banging or shouting repetitively? Maybe he hasn't designed that game just to ruin your afternoon. It's just possible he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The child standing in the middle of the room covering his ears and crying loudly? That's not always a tantrum. It might be a boy on the autistic spectrum, struggling to cope with a sensory overload. If they are struggling with these issues, none of the parents are enjoying this challenging behaviour any more than you are.
Fortunately we are getting better at diagnosing childhood difficulties that manifest themselves in "bad" behaviour, and helping children and parents to cope. Long may that continue.
There will be some readers who will look at this list of syndromes and consider them an excuse for lazy parenting. Of course, not every show of bad behaviour belies a syndrome and not every parent is blameless. But next time you encounter "naughtiness" think for a moment. Do you know enough to judge? If you sat and talked with that parent, what might you learn?
Be nice out there people. Sometimes there's more to "naughty" than meets the eye.