Child educators believe that expressions such as “good boy” or “bad boy” are not recommended when praising or correcting a child. All children are good; it’s their specific behavior that can be perceived as good and bad. Rather than directing your words at the person (child) direct it at the behavior itself. For example, say “throwing toys around is bad”. As a parent, I know it can be hard to follow this rule since we are subconsciously trained to direct our words at the person; the same habit we follow with adults.
Behavior is rarely a function of the child. Many children react strongly, violently, or emotionally due to stressful situations around them, or when the anxiousness of parents gets rubbed off on the children. Numerous studies on rodents/mammals show that presence of the mother in the first year, especially her constant touch or licking results in the rodent-child growing up to be more secure, and a better handler of stress in adulthood. Similar patterns have been seen in humans too. The behavior of the child and the subsequent adult has a lot to do with early nurture and patterns at home. Comparing children based on behavior is hence unfair. Showing preference for one of the children at any age ignores the fact that the personality and stress handling capacity of this individual was determined to a large extent in the first few years after birth.
The little toddler whose behavior we forgive easily grows up one day. We forget that they were never bad boys or bad girls. We now find it hard to forgive or cajole them. Probably because while growing up they lost that adorable innocent smile!