We have been judging kids based on their behavior, and it’s time to change.
I get it. We like good kids! The ones who always listen to authority, use their manners, and respond to discipline and time-outs the way we think they should. Sure, every now and then they do something surprising or frustrating, but those kids make sense. They’re easier.
On the other hand, there are kids who start testing the boundaries of every rule from birth. The toddlers who climb on the counter as soon as you turn your back because the cookies are somewhere up there. The kids who watch when you start unloading the dishwasher (or doing anything productive), so they take your phone and hide it under their pillow. The kids who get angry, talk back, and even yell and scream when they’re scolded—instead of actually feeling sorry, like they should.
These kids test the authorities and every rule in their life. Instead of just accepting the boundary, they have to walk up to it, poke it, push it, and trample all over it just to see what happens.
Don’t get me wrong, those behaviors shouldn’t be accepted or let go. In fact, all kids need those firm boundaries—they need to know that the boundary isn’t going to move, no matter how many times they try to destroy it.
These boundary-pushers might be more difficult (okay—definitely more difficult), but “good kids” may have their own battles. Over-simplifying behaviors and naming them “good” or “bad” is completely misdirected and damaging.
I know, because I was a “good kid”
I was one of those kids who was born to please. Why would I push the boundaries, when having anyone upset with me was more than enough punishment? No thank you. I identified as a “good kid,” and I definitely believed that made me better than other kids and teenagers.
Then, I got to adulthood and realized that pleasing everybody else didn’t make me better. It actually trapped me on a fast track to misery.
Once I finally found the bravery to step off the track, I realized that sometimes the best things in life happen when you push the boundaries and ignore some haters.
Maybe the difficult kids had the right idea.
Now, I am the proud and very tired mom of a child who pushes every boundary I have ever put in her life. Do I question my decisions every single day? Sure. Do I fear for her life and well-being? Definitely.
But do I look at her and think, “She is a bad kid because she won’t just listen to me!” Absolutely not.
Instead, I look at her and think, “This girl is powerful.” And then I brew more coffee, thank God for giving her so much strength, and beg for some of my own.
Until our kids become the independent world-changers that they will be, let’s stop trying to fit them into the nice, tidy, easy mold we were hoping for. Let them create their own mold.