How to raise naughty children (and why all good parents should consider doing so).

I believe I have a duty to teach my kids how to be naughty. Not rude, or mean, or nasty. Just a little bit, well,  challenging now and again. The phrase Rod for My Own Back springs to mind. Do I really want to raise  children who challenge my authority all the time? Certainly  not. But do I want them to be equipped to know when to ruffle a few feathers here and there? Why yes I do, that sounds rather marvellous.

People who make life a little harder for authority figures often get labelled as ‘naughty’, but their lives are no less ‘good’ because of it. Indeed, sometimes they live better lives than the majority of us. Please stay calm people –  I am not after total anarchy – I like having a general understanding of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. But equally, blind compliance with authority is not necessarily the ‘good’ path either.

The point that I am trying to get to is that, in my book

defining ‘being good’ as complying with the requests of the state, the media, your school your employer or even your parents only really works if those institutions are themselves worth complying with

But how do we decide when to comply and when to rebel?

Plato spent rather a lot of time chit chatting about virtue, goodness, justice and all that jazz. I have to say, Wikipedia kind of sums up how helpful I find this work:

“The Form of the Good is one of the most abstruse doctrines of Plato’s….and there is no scholarly consensus as to its meanings” Wickipedia

It’s in Wikipedia, it must be true, right?


However, what I do like about Plato is how he wants us to challenge the ‘facts’ as they are presented to us. Nothing illustrates this better than his analogy of the cave. There we are sat in a cave, where we are presented with shadows on the wall, and told that these shadows are the ‘truth’. You can decide for yourself who is casting these shadows: Corrupt Media Empires, Dodgy Politicians, whoever. But to really understand the world, you’ve got to (a) realise you are sat in a cave, being spun a load of crap, and (b) want to get out of that cave and have the means to get out of that cave in order to discover the ‘truth’.

If you have time, this Youtube clip sums up the cave analogy better. If you haven’t time, check out the first two lines of the Bay Watch Theme Tune – who knew the Hoff was so profound?

As a parent, I think I have a moral duty to my kids to guide them out of that cave (or, in the modern world, away from the idea that the X factor, mindless consumerism, and ‘news’ in tabloid journalism are reality). You might disagree, you might prefer the cosy comforting cave-ness of it all. But there is something in me that believes it is important that we can question the ‘facts’ as they are presented.

It is therefore pretty evident to me that I have a duty to ensure that my kids are able to think.

If your kids manage to find their way out of their cave, now and again they will pop back in to see some of their mates who still reside in aforementioned cave. Despite these cave-dwelling friends having acquired 10 A*s at GCSE, they will not have been taught the skill of thinking. The downside for the kids that leave the cave is that when they return, their friends will think them a little weird:  “What? There shouldn’t be boobs on the pages of the tabloid press?? You’re mental you are”.  So the second thing we need to help them with is courage: courage to say what they think, even if that means saying, “Actually person of higher authority, I don’t agree”.

Why is all this important? Well, when having a ‘good’ career goes hand in hand with spending limited time with the family; when you get a job in order to be a ‘good’ member of society, to find you still cannot afford to eat; when to go to an ‘outstanding’ school, you have to move, and have a mortgage debt that means you can rarely see the kids, it’s time to ask if the institutions that govern and inform us have our society’s best interests at heart. If they don’t, we ought to challenge the status quo, knowing that by doing so we could end up getting labelled as being a bit of a pain in the arse.

What I have established (in my own little mind at least) is that I would like my kids to think and to have the courage to challenge things that just ain’t quite right. If I raise them with the ability to be a little bit rebellious, a little bit naughty in the face of misguided/malignant folk in authority, I’ll have done a good job.

On that note, I leave you with the Hoff.

42 thoughts on “How to raise naughty children (and why all good parents should consider doing so).

  1. Fab, fab post! I completely agree with all of it. We spend so much time getting our children to comply and to ‘do as they’re told,’ but I’m not at all convinced that it’s the best thing for them to learn. I mean, obviously I want them to do what I ask them most of the time. But if they disagree, I feel that learning to be able to express and discuss it is something which will stand them in good stead in adulthood.


    • Your encouraging comment came at such a good time – i found getting that blog post to a point that I was happy with it really tricky. I hope the people who determine education policy have the same kind if view that we do.
      Thanks again


  2. In our house we have a saying ‘rules are for fools’.but we have also done a deal that i’m main carer when they’re small and when they become unruly teenagers daddy is taking over… i’ll let you know how it goes ( badly probably).
    Enjoy your Wednesdays! ( does this make Saturday your hump day?)


    • Rules are for fools – love it. Yes, please let me know how Daddy and the teenagers go! I am hoping for one long Spa break from the ages of 14 – 17 at least. Optimistic? Moi?


  3. Sounds about right to me, I was a naughty child and had a lot of fun but still knew when enough was enough because of the right guidance from my mother. Trying to control children too much can lead to them becoming frustrated and developing anger problems they won’t fully understand.

    You sound like a great mum who wants the best for her children and I’m sure they will understand this and respect you for it :)


    • Thanks so much Davey. Especially for assuming I am a great mum – currently chucking chocolate downs the kids’ necks so I can get a spot of piece.
      PS – had a quick look at your blog – amazing photos.


      • No problem at all keep up the good work!
        Haha nice bribe, short lived though I would imagine before the sugar kicks in.

        Thanks for taking a look at my page, I’m sure you meant drawings, but if you didn’t please take a closer look when you get chance.


      • Wow – I have just had a real proper look at some of your work on a big screen. I totally misunderstood what digital art studies were. I am ignorant about many things in the art world (and generally!). I love what you do, especially the forest/wood drawing. Sorry I got it wrong!!


  4. I have just read all of your posts having come across your blog via Mumsnet Talk and the thread about the going to the BlogFest tomorrow. I posted a comment yesterday about finding your home page really interesting and fun to read and your posts certainly don’t let the reader down. I love the combination of home life linked to philosophy which really shows the world of parenthood as the confusing mass of contradictions it really is. Also without wanting to sound patronising to other bloggers who write about family life and parenting it is really refreshing to come across an ‘intelligent’ and very different take on the above. I would never want to knock other people’s styles of writing and from blogging myself I know it is very personal and very cathartic, but I do find there is inadvertently, I’m sure, a lot of sameness. Yours definitely aren’t and the quirkiness of the content certainly has kept me interested. Please keep finding the time on your Wednesdays to do this because you’ve got a fan here…maybe our paths will cross at BlogFest.


    • Wow. This has bought a massive smile to my face, and a little tear to my eye. I would live to catch up at Blogfest. I’ll look at the programme of events later too and we can work out where to hook up.
      Thank you


  5. Really interesting blog. The idea of ‘good’ starts so young as well. ‘Good’ babies don’t cry, ‘good’ babies sleep through the night…. as if it’s ‘bad’ that a baby would express the fact that they want/need something.


    • You are so right! And I had forgotten about this angle entirely. Now you have reminded me, I remember when my first was born trying to correct people when they asked ‘is he a good eater/sleeper/ teether etc. But I slowly slipped into using the ‘good’ terminology myself. I wonder if when we do that, we run the risk of implying that if the kids aren’t ‘good’ sleepers, perhaps we aren’t ‘good’ mothers.


  6. YES! The day to day grind is boring enough without having compliant children (as much as I want to throttle him when he finds a particularly inventive way around a rule).

    With my own kids I go for a reasonableness test – if I would be annoyed at a rule, request or order then I assume my son will be and try to respond accordingly (obviously some rules can’t be broken, but others I don’t even try to enforce). My dad always encouraged negotiation and I think we have a great relationship as a result.


    • It’s a fine line isn’t it. They are currently screaming and running up and down the landing – I am going to quickly implement your reasonableness test, and react appropriately!
      I am slowly mastering the art of negotiation – I hope I nail it so I can pass some titbits onto the kids ASAP.


  7. Great post, I couldn’t agree more. I was raised in a very 80s feminist lefty household and we were always encouraged to ask questions, even those that made our parents uncomfortable. I hope I can do the same for my kids.


    • Thank you. I was also raised in a lefty household. I remember lots of interesting and passionate (to say the least!) discussions. My parents had friends with many different, often opposing, views and beliefs. I am really thankful to all of them for speaking to me about my views and ideas, and sharing theirs with me.


  8. Great post! My three children are definitely not shrinking violets and I like it that way despite its many shouting challenges. I think as long as children learn good morals they know when authority (or reality TV) should be challenged. If they don’t have the confidence to question, they’re more likely to find themselves in undesirable situations I believe. Thanks Mary.


    • Thank you Jane. That confidence to question in an assertive and not an aggressive way is something that it has taken me a long time to learn. As I am getting better at it, I am realising what a powerful tool it is. I hope I can pass a bit of what I have learned onto the kids.


  9. Agree 1000%. Extra nought just to show how much. When we want good, well behaved children we’re mostly trying to exert some level of control that slots children into how we want them to behave. So i’ve accepted that my daughter might grow up challenging my authority as much as the rest of the world and I’m okay with that. I’d rather she grew into a spirited, questioning child and adult out of that cave as much as possible!


  10. Lovely post, and oh so true! Mind you, my little ones already have the confidence to question pretty much everything, so I am not too worried about them. Well done for being crowned “Friday’s blog of the day” on! It was lovely to meet you on Saturday.


    • Lovely to meet you too. It was a good day wasn’t it?
      Hope to bump into you again soon.
      Good luck with everything and thank you for taking the time to say lovely things on my blog.


    • Thank you so much. I enjoyed writing this one. The skill of thinking is something that I worry is at risk at the moment.
      Must go and get dressed – being in PJs at 9am is about as rebellious as I get now a days!


    • That is a very lovely comment. Thank you. Glad you enjoy the blog. When my ‘spirited’ children stop hurtling around the home, I hope to check your blog out too. In the meantime, have a great 2014.


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