Once upon a time there was a boy who felt bad inside about himself and he regularly did impulsive things that proved to himself and to others that he was indeed very bad to the core. One time this boy brought home something new from school every day. Each day his loving parents discovered the stolen item and administered some form of restorative justice, including a requirement to return the object with an apology. Of course, these weren’t the first stolen items they had come across and they were no strangers to the lies and crying admissions that came with the stealing.
This time, however, as the days rolled on and the stealing didn’t stop, the parents became frustrated and angry. They started to interpret these actions as innately criminal and heartless in nature. And, at the same time they personalized and interpreted the boy’s behavior as outright spite and disregard for them and their family ways, so they resorted to punishing him and saying mean, hurtful things. They were distraught and hopeless to ever get from this boy what they wanted–his goodness.
Sadly, the only time this boy felt “good” was when he was taking something he wanted or doing something he knew he shouldn’t. In those moments, feeling good was the only thing that mattered. Later, he felt disappointed that he got caught and ultimately sad about what he had done. He knew his parents were exasperated with him and that they thought he was a bad seed because when they were really angry they said as much. What he knew for sure though was that deep down his feeling of badness was true. He always felt that way and now everyone else knew it, too.
If the story ends here it is a tragedy. If the parents find their compassion for the painful cycle this child from difficult beginnings is caught up in and help him understand his humanness; if they repair from the harsh things they said out of desperation and begin to reflect hope back at him in the kindness of their loving words and eyes, over time (sometimes a very long time) it will end up a hero’s journey for all.
You choose the ending for yourself.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
When your child behaves badly, reflect understanding and goodness back.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT