Should we ban the word 'naughty' and the 'naughty step' when disciplining children?

74% of nursery workers don't believe in using the 'naughty step' [Photo: Getty]
74% of nursery workers don't believe in using the 'naughty step' [Photo: Getty]

Parents are divided over the decision to ban the 'naughty step' at nursery schools, as childcare workers move towards a gentler approach to discipline.

The once popular parenting technique of popping a little one on the naughty step to think about their actions is now being phased out, with nurseries saying that they no longer use the term or the method due to its “negative connotations”.

A recent poll of 1,000 nursery workers, by, revealed that 74 per cent of nurseries said they do not agree with having a ‘naughty step’ - where children are asked to sit in a particular place and reflect on what they’ve done.

Instead, staff are encouraged to take children to one side and talk them through why some things are acceptable and some are not.

What’s more 95 per cent of nursery staff are not allowed to call children naughty and should use other ways to manage behaviour instead.

The findings of the study were discussed on ‘Good Morning Britain’, and sparked a divide between studio guests and parents.

Host Piers Morgan described the new discipline proposal as a “pathetic joke”, arguing that ditching the method for controlling bad behaviour would hinder children’s preparation for the real world.

“We are teaching them that the world is soft and lovely and no-one is going to say no to you and everyone wins a participation prize even if you come last,” he said.

“And now we’re not going to call you naughty. Do you think this prepares kids for the real world? The real world is not like that.”

Parenting coach Anita Cleare felt the move would have negative connotations in that stripping away a clear reward/punishment schemes could be confusing for youngsters.

Behavioural specialist Lorrine Marer, disagreed, however, pointing out that discussing a child’s behaviour with them was a better method of discipline.

And parents are also divided about the move away from the traditional method of punishment.

Many agreed with Piers Morgan that banning the word ‘naughty’ and doing away with methods like the ‘naughty step’ was another form of wrapping children up in cotton wool.

Should we ban the 'naughty step' as a way of disciplining children? [Photo: Getty]
Should we ban the 'naughty step' as a way of disciplining children? [Photo: Getty]

But some parents were in agreement with nursery staff that it wasn’t the best way to control bad behaviour.

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Commenting on the findings of the survey Sue Learner, editor of, said: “It is interesting that the word ‘naughty’ has become a dirty word. I do think if you label a child as naughty it can become self-perpetuating and lead to more bad behaviour.

The spokesperson goes on to say that nurseries seem to be taking a step away from the naughty step and instead adopting a ‘thinking chair’ or ‘thinking corner’ to make the practice sound more reflective than punitive.

“The ‘naughty step’ became popular during the time of the TV Supernanny and has evolved over time into the ‘thinking chair’. It seems that an increasing number of nurseries are now also ditching that for ‘thinking time’.

"Every nursery needs some kind of strategy to deal with a child’s disruptive behaviour but these ‘thinking chairs’ need to be monitored to ensure they are not being overused or a child is not sitting there for too long feeling miserable and sad.”

The use of the word ‘naughty’ isn’t the only parenting debate that is dividing the Internet right now.

David Beckham continues to defy the parenting police by kissing his daughter, Harper on the lips, despite criticism from some, including Piers Morgan.

Last month a mum has ignited a parenting discussion about whether it is ok to let her seven-year-old daughter watch ‘Love Island’.

A stay-at-home mum also kicked off a debate after asking if it was reasonable to expect her husband to pay her a salary.

In May, a mum sparked a discussion about whether partners should be allowed to stay overnight in maternity wards after the birth of their baby.

And back in April a woman caused uproar on Mumsnet after complaining that her ex is an “idiot” and she is “worried about the impact of his influence” over her seven-year-old son.