Supernanny’s ‘naughty step’ technique for disciplining children could actually lower their self-esteem, a leading child psychologist has claimed.

David Coleman says the use of the naughty step, made hugely popular by TV nanny Jo Frost, has “destroyed parenting”.

Mr Coleman, who has featured in a series of RTE parenting programmes, insists the overly strict approach has a damaging effect on parenting and there is more to changing a child’s behaviour than this simple technique.

We really need discipline but we don’t need punitive discipline,” he told Ryan Tubridy on his 2fm radio show.

“Jo Frost has just destroyed parenting by introducing that (naughty step) almost as the be all and end all of the way to deal with children.”

Mr Coleman, whose latest book is called The Thriving Family, believes a kind and firm approach to children fosters harmony in the home.

“When it comes to the naughty step, it has completely gamechanged parenting.

“A naughty step has become part of the lingo. It is used in lots of creches and pre-schools.

“Parents are influenced by what they see and it is an incredibly popular programme.”

He says that while “the programme shows that it is always invariably successful in turning tearaway toddlers into little angels, there is an awful lot more to it that that”.

The psychologist believes the technique can have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem.

“If you put a child on a naughty step on a regular basis, they internalise the belief that they are naughty as opposed to the behaviour.


“There is also a sense of rejection at being sent off to this place to be on their own. The children will grow up as obedient children but children with potentially lower self-esteem and not feeling good about themselves.

“I have a very different, much more gentle, non-distressing phase approach. It just takes longer. It’s about whether you are willing to invest the time.”

Mr Coleman, who presented 21st Century Child, Families In Trouble and Families In The Wild for RTE over the past decade, says he is in favour of positive techniques for getting to the core of a child’s behaviour.

“The original idea of time out was to give the child a chance to calm down. When children or adults get very angry they make bad decisions and children end up acting out.

“Parents need to start balancing and pointing out the good stuff. Children are much happier to be rewarded for something positive.”

He is also against letting babies cry themselves to sleep.

“Why would you traumatise your children and not respond to their needs in the middle of the night and leave them feeling that there is nobody there you can rely on? That to me is just torture.”

By Clodagh Sheehy

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