Some parents may be hesitant about allowing their children to read stories with characters that are deemed 'bad' or 'naughty'. It's understandable to see why as children (particularly young children) pick up on the behaviour of others and can be easily influenced. Mayhem is also something that children can be drawn to and find funny, particularly as they have so many rules in their own lives but discussing the behaviour of a character in a safe and controlled environment can sometimes be the best way of talking to a child about their own behaviour.
Here are some naughty characters in fiction that actually teach some valuable lessons to children:
William from Just William
William drives everyone in his family crazy with his antics and can't seem to stay out of trouble for long. The books give us a real insight into the rich fantasy life inside his head and the reasons for his actions. This creates some of the funniest storytelling and ultimately endears the reader to this boy that everyone else is exasperated with. Children will laugh out loud at the scrapes William gets into while also learning that actions eventually have consequences.
Elizabeth Allen from The Naughtiest Girl
Elizabeth Allen is determined to be the naughtiest girl at her new boarding school so that she can be sent home to her mother. But, she soon finds that the school has a very different way of dealing with troublemakers that causes her to question her own behaviour. This classic tale teaches self-responsibility and the power of community while exploring Elizabeth's thoughts and feelings about moving away from home.
Henry from Horrid Henry
Henry is, well... HORRID. He constantly misbehaves and is bored easily leading him to make bad decisions. It is easy to judge his behaviour but there is an argument for him being a good kid at heart who is just full of energy and needs a lot of attention, something that a lot of parents will recognise. In the books there are always consequences to Henry's actions and exploring these with children can be a useful gateway to understanding their own frustrations in a constructive way.
Lola from Charlie and Lola
Lola is Charlie's naughty younger sister who is always asking why she has to do things, something that all young children (and parents!) can totally relate to. Through Lola, children can face the frustrations that they feel personally and try to understand why they are asked to do certain things by their older siblings and parents.
Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia
The spoilt and selfish Edmund desperately wants to be taken seriously and stop being compared to his 'perfect' older brother Peter. The White Witch takes advantage of this by treating Edmund like royalty and telling him that he is special. When she no longer needs him she casts him aside but only after he has betrayed his family. Edmund's journey teaches children to be wary of strangers offering something that seems too good to be true but his siblings accepting him back also teaches the redemptive power of forgiveness and family bonds.
Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden
The sullen Mary Lennox often acts out to gain attention as she was often left by her parents as a young child and she suffers from feelings of abandonment. Hers is a story of redemption that can teach children that with a little friendship and the joy of nature, even the most difficult and painful of circumstances can be turned around.
Toad from The Wind in the Willows
Toad is a classic 'naughty' character who lets his selfishness and greed lead him into becoming the villain of the story when he abandons his friends in favour of a shiny motor car. With Toad's story the most powerful part is not his actions but the way that his friends eventually bring him back to earth with a little bit of a telling off but overall quite a lot of understanding too. Although children will be excited by Toad's rambunctious antics, they can also learn that their actions will have consequences but that if they make a mistake they can still be forgiven and it isn't the end of the world.
What do you think? Is it important for children to read about badly behaved characters in order to understand their own feelings better or is it just too tempting for them to emulate what they read? Do you ever discuss what a character's actions mean with the children in your life? Tell us what you think via our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!