Often, parents are so focused on changing kids’s behaviors we forget that what we do grows out of who we are. If our primary focus is inspiring, influencing, and instilling healthy self-identities, then we are cultivating healthy children who will act the way they see themselves.
The fruit of a plant is the natural product of the plant itself. When you see bad fruit, it’s a result of either an unhealthy plant by sickness or damage from outside factors. When bad fruit is produced, you don’t punish the plant, you deal with the fruit by removing it, cleaning up the mess, and most importantly nurturing the plant or environment so it can grow healthy fruit in the future.
It’s very similar with dealing with a child’s behaviors. Many parents put the “do” before the “who.” We see them do something and forget that those actions come from who they are and how they see themselves. We can’t force them into lasting change from the outside in. It must come from the inside out. We’re not training dogs or dolphins to do what we want. We’re planting seeds of success and cultivating gardens of greatness in our child’s identities so they grow into who they were created to be before life trampled their dreams and outside forces poisoned their character.
I’m not saying we ignore the behaviors. While we teach and model what healthy fruit looks like, those negative behaviors can’t continue. Bad fruit spoils the good fruit over time. It’s crucial that the rotten fruit is removed quickly so it doesn’t infect more. Consequences must not only consistently be given in a way that motivates change but also communicate why it’s unhealthy and teach what healthy fruit looks like.
Having the right mindset when dealing with negative behaviors is very important. We can’t control other people, but we can teach them how to control themselves, speak life, and influence how they see themselves. Good fruit (behavior) is the result of a healthy garden (identity) that was seeded properly (character), cultivated correctly (consequences), and nurtured regularly (encouraged). Good behavior is the result of a healthy identity & ability. When their character is developed, skills are learned, and their identity is inspired so they see themselves as the kind of person who is honorable, honest, loving, kind, and compassionate they will act accordingly in alignment with their vision. Let’s commit to spending the majority of our time in our child’s garden growing healthy plants instead of on their fruit because when they know who they are they will do what comes naturally.
Photo credit: Gogolac via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA