I was working with a kindergartener yesterday. She was loving the one-on-one attention and kept trying to talk to me and tell me little stories between practicing her letters. She let me know that she had a little brother, but that her mom wanted a baby girl, not a boy. We practiced writing some more letters and then she said, “My baby brother is bad!” I wasn’t expecting that and thought for a second before saying, “Babies don’t know how to be bad.” I know that babies can be exhausting, messy, tiring, and colicky, but they aren’t wicked. The way she had said the word ‘bad’ made it sound terrible. She insisted that he was bad and when I asked what he did that made him bad she said, “He always takes off his diaper.” I told her that I was certain that he wasn’t being bad, but maybe he thought his diaper was uncomfortable so that’s why he took it off.” I could see her really processing that idea.
This made me think two things:
1) kids are listening to everything and really soaking it up.
2) Just because kids or people make bad decisions it does not mean that they are bad.
I have really worked hard throughout my career to never say that a child was bad. I stressed to my students that we can all make bad decisions, but that does not make us bad.
How great would it be if that mother could say, “Oh, your brother took his diaper off again. That wasn’t a good choice! He might accidentally go to the bathroom on the floor and that will make a mess.” That labels the choice as a bad one, but not the person. Everyone will make bad choices occasionally, but we all need to understand that that is normal, it’s okay and it’s part of the growing process. We also need to remember we are still good and the next time we have to make a choice that we have the power to make good or bad choices. Remember, separate the person from the behavior, NOT bad choice bad person, INSTEAD, bad choice good person.