Flipping The Behavior Narrative

Yesterday after he got home from school, it was rough. I mean ROUGH.

A better word would be NIGHTMARE.

It started just kind of bad and then progressed HORRIBLY through the evening until we got to bedtime and he crawled into bed, refusing to talk to me at all. This absolutely broke my heart.

His behavior affected everyone’s behavior and the entire afternoon/evening dissolved very quickly into something out of a parenting horror show. There was screaming and fighting (them). Frustration (me). Not listening and disobeying (them). Feelings of failure (me).

I’ll admit, my first response to all of his disobeying and acting out was, “He obviously needs more DISCIPLINE! This behavior is NOT ACCEPTABLE and he needs to KNOW IT. Nope. Nope. Nope. NOPE. I need to crack down EXTRA on this TOMORROW.”

My second thought, “I’ve failed as a parent. WHY is this so hard. How do I get through to him?”

After praying and pondering this all last night and all day today, it hit me what he needed from me.

It hit me hard.

Fact: He just started kindergarten. Fact: This is a huge transition for such a little person. Fact: He’s EXHAUSTED from long days and zero naps. Fact: When he gets home he’s STARVING and if I don’t make sure he gets a good snack, it’s unfair to expect him to do the list of tasks I have laid out for him. Fact: This new thing is scary. Oh he puts on a brave and excited face, but there are glimpses of fear in his eyes as he steps up onto that big bus in the morning.

I realized that this boy had a difficult, DIFFICULT afternoon yesterday, lashing out at me TERRIBLY, but discipline wasn’t the thing that he needed.

He needed: Grace. Empathy. Extra heaps of love. Understanding. Patience. A serious load of calories to fuel him back up.

With this in mind, today I made a new plan. It was the exact opposite of “cracking down extra hard on this behavior”.

An hour before his bus was to arrive I got busy.

When 3:00 arrived, I was waiting at the bus stop with a plate full of his favorite cookies fresh out of the oven. Warm, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies….made with extra love.

He stepped off the bus and I handed him the plate.

“I made you cookies!”

He looked surprised. That was so different than yesterday.


We walked slowly up to the house together as he eyed his cookies. Extra chocolate chips were melting in the middle with the perfect crisp brown all around the edges.

“You take as much time as you need to eat your cookies and rest, and then we’ll read your book when you’re ready. Just let me know,” I said.

He looked relieved.

Grace goes a long way.

It was during his cookie (and cold milk!) snack that he opened up and told me what it was about yesterday that made him really have a hard time about what I had asked him to do.

It made total sense, and I felt like a monster for not providing a safe space for him yesterday to tell me that.

I apologized for my part in yesterday. For not giving him understanding. For not making sure he was ready before I started to push him into doing other things.

“I’m going to do better today. I’m so, so sorry about yesterday, and I’m going to be a better mom today. Can you do better too?” I asked.

He nodded, looking so happy to be heard. To be seen right where he was at instead of lots of assumptions being made about a child needing to WALK THE LINE.

We had the best afternoon today. There was GREAT reading and outside play and they put away their laundry and started a new puzzle from Grandma.

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After dinner and baths we enjoyed the first two chapters from our new book on God and science. (Go get it. STAT. It’s still on sale and it’s AMAZING)

What made the difference between yesterday’s horror show and today’s pleasant afternoon/evening?

Grace. Understanding. Empathy.

I’m writing this as a reminder that bad behavior is not always a discipline issue. Not even a little bit.

Is there a place for consistency and discipline in parenting? YES!

But I’m just saying…you can’t assume that’s always the case. Otherwise you’re punishing your child for being human. For having feelings and needs. For not being heard.

Eli reminded me of this this week, and I’m so grateful to him for this.

I wish I could do yesterday over.

But you know what, there’s grace for me too.

I’m not a perfect parent. Or human being. I’m still learning, right alongside my kids.

But hey.

There are cookies here.

With a side of grace.

Providing a safe space for my kids means there’s a safe space for me too.


I can’t think of a better place to be.


p.s. yes, I know these are the ugliest cookies on the planet. Because while I have great intentions, it should also be noted that I have a newborn who sees my “hour planning session” and laughs. So yes, ugly because of the last minute rush. But DELICIOUS. For real. Best cookies ever.

Deanna Smith