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  • Nur Y. Smits

Abolish the naughty corner! The do’s and don’ts in educating a child with "bad" behaviour.

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

When a child misbehaves, does it work to send the child to the naughty corner? Tell the child to sit and face the wall? These are quick fixes that may actually be more detrimental to the child in school. Here are the do’s and don'ts to educating children:

1. Don’t be fast at punishing the behaviour, investigate the reason for the behaviour instead.

The “bad” behaviour portrayed may be the result of underlying factors. If we are too quick at disciplining the child without understanding where the behaviour is coming from, it may be detrimental to the child’s well-being. Instead, do the positive learning methods below:

Make time to find out what is causing this bad behaviour.

Be a detective! Find out more information on what is happening. Like the iceberg, we only see the tip of it but not what is below that is causing the behaviour. Sometimes the underlying factors are not easily deciphered. A formal Occupational Therapy assessment may help further in investigating this. For example, an assessment by the Occupational Therapist can identify if there are sensory integration problems that are affecting the child’s attention. In such cases, the therapist will administer the appropriate interventions to help the child regulate himself for better attention in class.

In some countries, Occupational Therapy is made available at schools to support children. The Occupational Therapist will assess what are the underlying factors contributing to the children's learning issues and plan out a programme to aid the child appropriately. To know more about the role of the Occupational Therapist at schools, read here.

Give space to child's own input in his learning.

Unlocking the child's potential by helping the child find their  intrinsic motivation is the most powerful learning driver. 

Sometimes when I have planned a session, a child would try to add or change something to the activity. For some, these actions may be seen as disruptive behaviour but, to me, I see innovative behaviour. I will try to integrate their ideas into the session. This works out well because it increases the intrinsic motivation in them to do the activity.

2. Don’t make the child stick out of the classroom like a sore thumb!

How would we, as adults, feel when we are being picked out, told to stand or go to the "naughty corner"? Embarrassment? Feeling like a failure? These feeling, for children, are more amplified. Watch here a video on a research done on how a young child reacts when a person is angry.

Unlike adults, children are still at an early stage in learning to cope with their feelings. Adults may think that they are putting the children at the "time out" place where they can reflect their actions but in actual fact the children may feel more defeated. In the UK, the nurseries see the importance in this and have even outlawed the word "naughty".

Thus, as adults we must ask ourselves: is this an effective disciplinary action or a harmful one. Any new learning strategy forced on a child may be harming the child more than helping. Instead, try the more positive educative methods below:

Make it optional.

Even if these learning strategies were recommended by professionals etc., do ask the child first if they are comfortable with having them. Some may be perfectly fine with new things being introduced in their classroom for them but some may not be. For example, are they comfortable with having an alarm on their desk to finish tasks in time? For some, it might be fine but for some it may cause more anxiety.

Open it to the classroom!

A child may feel being singled out in a group when being the only one using a learning aid. Try to avoid it by opening it to the classroom. The other kids may want to try these learing aids too! Sitting on a wiggle seat could be a fun thing when done in a group! And not being the only one with an alarm looking at you at the table might give a better feeling! This way, the child does not feel alone in this.

Be creative!

For example, there are other learning strategies to work with attention instead of sitting on a wobble cushion. I have a preference for learning strategies that are a part of the classroom activities. These strategies are functional, do not alienate the child and teach responsibility! For example, if a child needs to move once a while, ask the child to help out in the classroom with handing out the books or bringing books to the library etc.

Let the child be a role model to others

Kids learn best when they feel like they can help too. This empowers them in believing that they can achieve things. For example, if the class has to finish work within a certain time frame, let this child be in charge of the timer. When it alarms, the child informs the class to hand in their work. By teaching others, this child is also teaching himself.

In summary, when facing a child's "bad" behaviour:


  • Don’t be fast at punishing the behaviour.

  • Don’t alienate the child.

  • Don’t force an intervention on the child.


  • Do make time to find out what is causing the behaviour.

  • Do seek professional help when the behaviour is not easily deciphered.

  • Do give space to the child's own input in his learning.

  • Do try to implement functional learning strategies.

  • Do encourage the child to be a role model to others.

Watch my video below on this topic.

Share this article to encourage more positive learning :)

All activities should be done under close adult supervision. If you are concerned and want to know more if the child’s inattention is a sign of ADHD and seek further help, read here.


Written by: Nur Yusoff Smits

Mother of 2 and an Occupational Therapist.

To know more about the author, click here.

To contact the author, click here.

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