Parenting Style: The Naughty Step #psychology #familylife #parenting

Naughty Step Parenting

I think most parents will understand the Naughty Step technique (Parenting Style) and I know I have certainly used it with my two girls. I found it interesting when reading the research and watching clips from a series called ‘Supernanny’ and I wanted to share some of the things I had learnt. So within this essay I would like to consider the relation of parenting styles and the use of ‘The Naughty Step’ and attempt to demonstrate the impact child psychological research has on society. I will begin by introducing the concept of development, the two important research strategies involved in observing the developmental affects, certain research undertaken to try improve societal understanding of more constructive parenting styles, the three types of parenting styles conceptualised by Baumrind (1967, 1980) cited in Smith et al (2003), consider the use of ‘The Naughty Step’; highly publicised in the media via the Channel 4 TV show Supernanny in relation to parenting styles, and those viewpoints opposed to the technique (Might be chewing off a little more than expected).

Within psychology, the term ‘development’ embodies itself over an organism’s life-span, considering how an organism changes and grows over a select time period. Humans for example, experience their most dramatic developmental changes starting at the beginning of their life-span (prenatal) ranging right through to becoming parents themselves. The timescale involved in observing such long periods means that most origins of developmental psychology have been primarily focused around child psychology, ranging from infancy to adolescence (Smith et al, 2003).

Charles Darwin made one of the earliest contributions to child psychology by observing his son’s development and releasing his findings in an article called, ‘A biographical sketch of an infant’. This demonstrates that even as early as 1877, scientists were interested in the intricacies of child development (Smith et al, 2003). In-order to theorise about this progression, two important research strategies can be used. These include ‘cross-sectional’ design, which would involve an investigator observing different groups simultaneously to establish certain behaviours at a particular time, and ‘Longitudinal’ design, where an investigator follows a certain group of participants over a given period of time resulting in research demonstrating growth and change from one stage of development to the next (Smith et al, 2003).

Following these design methods, studies have been carried out to observe how parents may vary in their individual/co-parenting styles. Diana Baumrind, an American psychologist conceptualised styles of child-rearing into three main categories: Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive (Baumrind, 1967, 1980 cited in Smith et al, 2003). Baumrind (1967, 1980) cited in Smith et al (2003) inferred parents with restricted adaptations to open discussion, discipline and behaviour are those of the authoritarian. Authoritative parents have a willingness to explain and discuss, inviting children to express their own individual thoughts and ideas regards behaviour and discipline, demonstrating the will to adapt those boundaries to given situations. Relaxed ideas about behaviour and discipline belong to those of a more permissive parent who may not take such an active role in their child’s life.

Research has been carried out into the effects of using such parenting techniques as ‘The Naughty Step’, which has been popularised by such TV shows as Channel 4 – Supernanny (Jo Frost), who is seen as a television parenting guru (, 2013;, 2012). According to Frost (2011), the main principle behind ‘The Naughty Step’ is to reduce tension between parent and child, and give ‘time out’ to both participants. This technique involves observing a child’s behaviour and if certain boundaries set by the parents are breached, the child should be removed from the environment and placed in a location (a step) and left alone for a short period of time (reflecting the age) to allow that child to reflect upon their actions. After a short time the parent returns to the location and has a discussion with their child explaining the reasons as to why they had been removed from the environment. The child is then asked to apologise for their actions, thus introducing/reinforcing the understanding that certain actions will have an impact on them and there are reasons why certain actions should not be performed. A show of affection then follows, hopefully by both parties, which will demonstrate that although parents have to discipline children, they still love each other (Frost, 2011). According to (2012), many current parenting websites, books and journals still use timeout as an effective way to control distinct behaviour in children, trying to diffuse and correct elements of behavioural patterns. Those sources evaluate this technique as a positive way to control behaviour, remove the child from a problematic situation and allow both child and parent to remain calm. However, there are opposing points of view to this parenting technique.

According to (2012), the use of the ‘time out’ technique is not the only source of behavioural control and ‘time out’ may not be as effective in curbing the behaviour as the media portrays. The media hype, promoting the popularity of such techniques prompted the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Inc (AAIMHI) to voice their understanding of the technique stating that the use of such techniques is ‘inappropriate’ and should be refrained from use in older children. According to Porter (2012) cited in (2012), children are not able to regulate their emotions in overwhelming situations and punishing them by the use of ‘The Naughty Step’; this is a natural process of child development and we are punishing children for being just that; children.

According to The Telegraph (2012), there is a handbook published by the Montessori Movement promoting the idea that children should be taking decisions for themselves and should not be punished for not understanding their emotions, resulting in potential misbehaviour. The approach published by Montessori’s schools is to promote independent learning within a child’s development and a parent’s role is to encourage this freedom and provide support. Kohn (2012) and (2012) clearly state that this technique fits the Authoritarian parenting style by providing strict boundaries to curb potentially unwanted behaviour and believes that a more authoritative approach which helps promote independent learning and reflection is required.

According to Gambles (2010), the New Labour policy developments have a major influence on how society understands what is to be accepted as an outstanding parent promoting health and wellbeing in future generations. Such policies can be interpreted in many different ways; developing and educating parents within society will undoubtedly shape the course in which future generations will influence the development of modern society, therefore, increasing conformity towards such governmental policy in order to shape a more productive future. ‘Supernanny’ includes reference to such policy by promoting the education of parents and parenting styles and not jus those skills by which children must develop to contribute positively within society (Gambles, 2010).

Although such experts as Jo Frost (Supernanny) are popular in educating parents, they are not scientific in nature. Their work can be identified as carrying out appropriate research to which doctors and scientists have acceptance because of the current public perception that doctors and scientists are too ‘research based‘ and lack the authoritative experience to naturally guide parents and merely just state the obstacles faced by the average parent are ‘natural processes’. Such seen experts as Jo Frost (Supernanny) are clearly stating that with appropriate experience, the common mishaps can be avoided which will only bring society closer to a more positive future in line with not just public expectations but those of government policy (Gambles, 2010).

In summary, although this popular technique is attempting to curb undesired behaviour traits, within psychological research it is possible to see this technique fit more than one parenting style; bringing me to the conclusion that one does not necessarily fit all.

References: (2013). Supernanny – Channel 4 [Online]

Frost, J,. (2011). The Naughty Step Technique for Discipline [Online]

Gambles, R,. (2010). Supernanny, parenting and pedagogical state. Citizenship Studies. 14(6). pp. 697-709 [Online]

Kohn, A,. (2016). Why do we punish children? [Online] (2012). Disciplining kids: Why the ‘naughty corner’ doesn’t work [Online]

Smith, P, K,. H, Howie,. & M, Blades,. (2003). Understanding Children’s Development – Fourth Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

The Telegraph (2013). Beware of Supernanny’s Naughty Step Treatment – Parents be Warned [Online] (2012). Is the Naughty Step Discipline a Quick Fix? [Online]

Additional Reading:

1. General view of how science shapes our societies as a whole but not really focused on the psychological approach.

2. Many different applications of how psychological research has been applied to society. Main focus for you would be the use of Albert Bandura’s psychological approaches used within media to educate society by the use of drama/soaps.

3. The theory of ‘Time Out’ and different parenting skills adapted to dealing with the obstructive behaviors of children.

4. The theory that parents experiencing levels of stress while their children are in their developmental stages can have an effect on the childs genes and could increase levels of Methylation therefore, potentially leading to undesired behaviors.

5. Early maternal support promotes growth of hippocampal region of the brain therefore, leading to more balanced behavior from children at later stages.

6. Different effects of parental control on child behavior.

7. The naughty step for and against looking at the media programme ‘Supernanny’.

8. Praising children can have long-term effects.

9. The naughty step technique does not work anymore.

10. 10 time-out techniques to consider.

11. Jo Frost’s The Ten Golden Rules

12. Australia – Corporal Punishment – Still for it.

13. Google scholarly Search – Psychology Corporate Punishment.

14. Child perceptions of corporal punishment.

15. Joe Frost – The Naughty Step Technique

16. Supernanny Programme – Channel 4

17. The Naughty Step is no quick fix.

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