I’m sure we’ve all come across the cartoon Horrid Henry at some point.

I find this cartoon interesting and heartbreaking. It is a real example of how as adults we can label our children and cause them to behave in ways that are undesirable, and actually it was us who caused these problems.

In a typical episode of Horrid Henry, he gets called horrid at least 10 times in the 20 minute programme. Why on earth would Henry even try to behave in a different way if he’s just going to be told he’s horrid the whole time?

He never gets praise for doing the right thing.

One particular episode really sticks in my mind. Henry wakes up early, before his brother who’s named Perfect Peter. He comes downstairs and puts the telly on. He’s happily watching the TV whilst everybody else is asleep upstairs. Peter comes into the lounge and gets very upset that Henry won’t allow him to watch the telly. Even though Henry was watching the telly first.

With that, an argument breaks out, mum and dad come downstairs and scold Henry for being horrid. Henry is so horrid because he’s had the TV all morning. And of course he should hand the remote control over to Peter, who’s just got out of bed and wants to watch a programme of his choice.

Henry reacts to this loudly as he feels it is very unfair. I have to say. I agree with Henry. Where was Henry’s praise for getting up quietly entertaining himself coming downstairs? For not disturbing anybody, and just watching the telly? His mom could have come downstairs and praised him.

And I think that she should have pointed out to Peter that when Henry’s programme was finished that of course he can watch the telly, but until that point, Henry had the TV first.

Of course, I know it’s just a cartoon! However it’s a great example of how we treat children, and how they will always live up to our expectations. Henry didn’t expect anything different, he knew that he was going to be called horrid, and he knew that whatever Peter did was perfect, and he could do no wrong. Why on earth would Henry react any differently?

Why would Henry even try to change certain behaviours when he’s never going to be praised?! In fact, I don’t remember one programme of Horrid Henry, where he was ever praised for anything. They seem to just hone in on the things that aren’t going right and tell him off for it.

Now I know as parents, we can all be very guilty of doing this. There are always times when our children push us to the limit. When we love our children but don’t like their behaviour. That’s perfectly normal, but what can happen if we are constantly homing in on the behaviour we don’t want to see we forget that actually 80% of the day, we’ve had good behaviour. We just haven’t praised it because it hasn’t been drawn to our attention. If we only ever crackdown on the negative behaviour and never praise or recognise the required behaviour. Where is the incentive, why would a child even try to change things if we don’t notice when they’re doing the right thing?

So I challenge you at the start of this New Year to try and not be a Horrid Henry seeker, but try to seek out those Perfect Peter moments – let your child know exactly when they’re doing what you expect them to do. Let them know that you’ve noticed, thank them for their behaviour, giving them a smile or a thumbs up. It doesn’t have to be stickers on reward charts. Just a simple token that you’ve noted the behaviour, and you appreciate it. You will see that your child thrives so much better. And their confidence and self-esteem will grow as they begin to feel that they are really making you proud.