Love the Behavior, Too

by Scott Noelle

When a child’s behavior is deemed inappropriate, the conventional wisdom is to “love the child, hate the behavior.”

Hmmm... It’d be nice if children could make the subtle distinction between self and behavior, but even adults have a hard time with that! If your partner tells you s/he hates your behavior, is it any less discouraging to hear, “but I love YOU”?

Our behavior is a reflection of who we are at the moment. Hating your child’s behavior is like saying you don’t love the part of your child that wants to behave that way. To love unconditionally, you must find a way to love the behavior, too.

Fortunately, loving unwanted behavior doesn’t mean wanting it or even tolerating it. You can love unwanted behavior even as you take steps to change it!

But be open to the possibility that Love will transform you, your child, and your relationship, such that you no longer feel a need to change anything.

Improve Your Groove

Here’s a simple fill-in-the-blank exercise for finding a way to love your child’s “misbehavior” as it arises...

“I don’t want this behavior,
and I may choose not to tolerate this behavior,
but I accept that it is what’s happening,
here and now,
and I LOVE this behavior because
______________________ , and
______________________ , and...”

Come up with as many ways as you can to use this behavior as an excuse to open your heart. Some examples:

I love this behavior because...

  • it’s a clear sign that my child needs help.
  • it gives me an opportunity to practice staying connected to my inner power, unconditionally.
  • it reminds me how grateful I am just that my child is alive!

Bottom line: You hold the key to your own heart. And you’re free to unlock it for any reason, or no reason at all.

Originally published on 2006-08-21
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