Is there always a reason - or could your kid just be a little sh*t?

Let’s be honest here – sometimes children are simply just little sh*ts.

“F.U.C.K” he mouthed at me.

His mouth twisted into a snarl. His eyes nasty, blazing with fury.

Had he been ten years older. I would have been horrified at the venom. But his toothless grin after he spat out his fury chipped away at the malice in his words.

He was six years old.

A child in a park — a little boy who, just moments before, had been swinging as high as he could kicking out his legs in joy.

Could a child ever just be a bit of a shit? ( Getty Images)

A child. Not a pleasant child. Possibly a struggling child, but a child nonetheless. A child who had just been reprimanded for hurting my daughter and a child, right now I basically thought was pretty darn awful.

As he slunk away and threw slithers of wood chips at the other kids I wondered about him.

We’ve all heard the reasons: He’s just bored. She’s overtired. He needs grommets for his ears. We had a big weekend. He is frustrated because he feels nobody listens to him. He is actually bored at school; he isn’t challenged.

Reasons? Or excuses?

It makes me wonder. Could it ever be simply that your child is a bit of a sh*t?

I’ve thought it, even at times about my own tantruming children. A deliberately drawn-on wall, a meltdown in the supermarket over a box of smarties, a tussle over a toy that ends in tears.

It seems these days we pussyfoot around this idea, trying to find reasons, trying to explain and account for our children’s behaviour.

Perhaps, in many cases, there are valid reasons. But what about the times there aren’t?

CCTV vision of James Bulger being led away.

The idea of a child just being inherently bad was explored in depth after the much-publicised death of James Bulger in 1993. The two-year old was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.

The judge in sentencing said it was  “an act of unparalleled evil and barbarity”.

At the time they were branded “evil”; though many, at the conclusion of the case, placed much of the blame upon their mothers (not fathers.)

A study a few years later by psychologists at University College London found that one per cent of children could be actually be inherently psychopathic due to genetic traits. However, the researchers found that these children could in some cases respond to ‘warm parenting.’

It made many wonder: could, in another wold, James Bulger’s death have been avoided had these boys been parented differently?

That’s one extreme, but what about the kid who is just always naughty? The child who shows no remorse, no empathy, no humanity, no ability to reason?

You’ve seen them. I’ve seen them, even at the age of three or four.

These kids. What do you think? Just plain naughty? (Post continues after video:)


Clinical Psychologist Jo Lamble told Mamamia that children are not just “bad”.

“But they do arrive with their own little personalities” she added.

“They are genetically programmed to a large extent. Then, the way those genes manifest themselves is via their upbringing. So it’s easy to see how the same parenting style can produce completely different children – behaviour-wise.”

Noel Janis-Norton, a renowned behaviour specialist and author of Calmer Easier Happier Parenting agrees recently telling The Independent that no child is just  “born” naughty.

“Most behavioural problems in children are a combination of nature and nurture,” she says.

She says that we can normalise the behaviour if that is what we come to expect.

“Especially if the child with the extreme temperament is the first-born in the family, the parents just assume that’s the way things are and it’s easy for them to drift into catering to that child, which only makes things worse.”

A new show in the UK called “Born Naughty” is examining just this.

One child they followed, a girl called Honey, was exhibiting uncontrollable tantrums.

Honey from the show “Born Naughty”.

“She was violent towards us, her teachers, pupils at school and her own sisters,” her mum Stella told the show. “It was completely out of control. We’d had all the advice and parenting classes, and everything we tried worked for the other three children, but never Honey.”

Her father, Ben, said: “We were always being told that we hadn’t disciplined her enough, or that we had disciplined her too much. It was always nobody’s fault but ours.”

In the end, Honey was diagnosed with a new disorder “Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)”.

Me, I will reserve judgment on whether pathological demand avoidance is really a ‘thing’. Instead I will take relief in Jo Lamble’s reassurance that there is light at the end of that very, very long dark, noisy tunnel.

Some kids just extra empathy.

“We need to parent our children to match their personalities. We tend to make excuses for our child’s bad behaviour because we are having trouble understanding why one child continues to throw massive tantrums at five when they are told “no” when the older children never did,” she says.

“Distraction may work perfectly well with one child and not with another.

“Ignoring bad behaviour and praising good works with a lot of kids, but not all. Some kids need very simple clear instructions with little explanation. Others need extra empathy. “

“There is hope,” she says.

“But it takes a little longer with some.”

What do you think? Are some kids just plain, old-fashioned naughty?

For more on parenting, check out these posts:

It’s not surprising that parents of little kids break up. What’s amazing is that more don’t.

Finally a working-mother study we can bask and revel in.

The new magazine cover that’s probably going to break the internet.