What I Wish You Could See About My "Bad" Kids

Yesterday my 11 year old son tested for his green belt in Tae Kwon Do. He’s been waiting for this. He’s been ready to test for quite some time, but TKD is a way of life both inside and outside of class, and his behavior outside of class was not worthy of the tenants we follow — Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit.

Our instructor, in his wisdom, held my son back from his testing until he could show more self-control both inside and outside of class. Several months ago, it was a tough blow when our teacher told him he wouldn’t be testing, but yesterday made it worth it.

I wish you could have seen the look on his face when he broke both boards for his breaks, but I’ll capture it for you with words:

I. DID. IT. My son turned and looked at me with a look of awe and amazement that still brings me to tears.

On the way home, driving in the warm fall sunshine, I lost myself in thoughts as the radio played. My son grasped his broken boards in tight hands and stared out the window.

He turned to me, “I really did it, Mom,” he sighed, then leaned his head back and closed his eyes, a contented smile relaxing his face.

His whole body was calm. His body is rarely calm. He’s always moving. Anxiety and hyper-alertness keeps him twittering and itchy for the next thing and the next.

Change Your Child or Change the World?

Months ago I wrote this post that received a lot of attention: For all the Parents Whose Kids Won’t Get an Award

The point of the post was to reach out in understanding to those parents whose kids rarely make the cut by the world’s standards. I get what that feels like.

Overall, the response was extremely positive.

Then again, I also got feedback from people who said, “Hey, this is real life. Buck up. Not everyone gets the trophy. If everyone got the award, what would be the point?”

I understand that, too.

I’m not advocating we all stand around and sing Kumbaya while my kids trash the place. My expectation is that my children learn to get along the world, to the best of their ability.

You can teach your children to get along in the world, or you can complain that the world isn’t molding to them. Personally, I plan to teach my children to get along in the world. If you are expecting life to mold around your child, you are in for a long wait.

What I Wish You Could See About My “Bad” Kids

This is what I wish you could see.

And I’ll tell you, before I parented children as I am parenting now, I sure didn’t get it. I was mostly clueless.

  • The driving force behind negative behaviors is fear.

1 John 4:18 says,  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Try replacing words like “troubled” or “challenged” or “bad” kid with “fearful” and see how your attitude shifts.

(For more information about why this is true, read information from parenting expert Bryan Post or this post I wrote about kids and trauma.)

  • My kids try really hard to make right choices.

Talk about right and wrong choices, not good or bad kids. Just like everyone else, sometimes my kids make wrong choices, and sometimes they make right ones, but they are good kids.

  • Negative behaviors are for survival.

Maybe it’s all they know how to do in the moment. Maybe they don’t have any other skills. Maybe they are terrified. Kids act out their emotions from the inside with their behaviors on the outside. My job as the adult is to help them decode why, and teach them to make a better choice next time.

What I Wish You Could See About My "Bad" Kids

I Noticed

I cannot fix my children’s behavior. I cannot fix their medical problems. I would take these things on myself in a moment, if God would give me the chance.

I cannot fix it, but I can be there.

I will come to the testing and tournaments.

I’ll sit in the front row on hard benches and in overheated gyms.

I’ll wait three hours for 2 minutes of glory. I’ll clap extra hard.

I’ll notice. I promise, I will notice.

There is no fear in love