Most parenting experts these days make a big deal of distinguishing between your child and your child’s behavior — doing bad things doesn’t make her a bad kid any more than doing good things makes her a good kid — she’s just a kid who sometimes does good things and sometimes does bad things.
I understand the idea — if you give a kid a bad kid label, it will tend to be self-fulfilling. If you treat a kid like you know she can make good choices and will do so more and more, that’s likely to help, too.
On the other hand, maybe Amy’s right, too.
Yesterday we were talking about loving one another in all sorts of situations — when one of us is grumpy, angry, sad, afraid, happy, silly, etc. I think I said something about how I don’t love her behavior when she is rude, but that I love her when she’s rude. And she said, “But my behavior IS me!”
I explained the distinction… but then I keep thinking she’s onto something. The distinction may well not be so clear-cut and complete and absolute as advised by the experts.
Behavior influences heart.
Heart influences behavior.
Diet, exercise, weather, circumstances, past experience, nurture, genetics, activities, values, beliefs, assumptions, culture — and who knows what else — influence both heart and behavior.
Sometimes the Bible emphasizes the distinction side — people see the outside, but God sees the heart… they are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful and shining on the outside but inside full of bones…
Sometimes it emphasizes the unity side — by your words you will be justified, by your words you will be condemned… the sheep and goats will be separated based on their deeds… Ps 28:4-5 says to requite the wicked for their deeds.
I wonder how helpful it might be to talk to kids about how all these inner and outer things can influence one another in comprising this thing called a person.