Monday, April 11, 2011


One of the things I hear very often is parents telling me how their children are kind of a mixed bag when it comes to personality and behavior.

One day ten year old Jessica is being stubborn and uncooperative and the next day is helpful and kind. Eight year old Derek is selfish and angry at times and suddenly asks you if he can give his weekly allowance to a kid in his class who has no lunch. Fifteen year old Brittany is withdrawn and cranky, and the next thing you know she is out front helping the elderly neighbor next door carry in her groceries.

Parents are often confused by this as they worry about what their children are becoming. Of course, they want to see the helpful, kind, giving part of them be the default behavior in their children, but worry that the negative part will choke out the positive.

I often explain to parents that when we see those positive behaviors and attitudes in our children, they are like snapshots of who they may become. Those little moments demonstrate that the positive qualities you are trying to instill "are in there" but just well hidden at times.

Let those snapshots serve as a reminder to you that the seeds you are planting in your child are taking root, and they need to be tended to. How do we do that? Here are some suggestions:

1) Talk respectfully to your child, even when he/she doesn't earn it. That doesn't mean that you need to accept bad behavior, but don't resort to name calling or labeling.

2) Along with that, try to remember to label the behavior and not your child. Say, "that was wrong to hit your sister" rather than "you are bad."

3) Always affirm good behavior. Let your child know that you notice when he/she behaves in a way that pleases you.

4) Label your child in positive ways whenever possible. Say, "You are such a loving big brother," or "I see you being so helpful to your friends." Your child will be encouraged by those words.

Whatever you do, keep those snapshots of the good in your heart and your mind. Refer to those when you are frustrated with your child. Use them to encourage you to keep going, knowing that eventually the little seedlings you've planted will grow into strong trees with deep roots that produce good fruit.