Love the Things You Hate

January 20th, 2011 by Dionna | 17 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

I get a daily parenting email from The emails center around gentle, respectful parenting, and they are such a great way to start my morning.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email that was about the phrase “love the child, hate the behavior.”1 The tip said:

Our behavior is a reflection of who we are at the moment. Hating your child’s behavior is like saying you don’t love the part of your child that wants to behave that way. To love unconditionally, you must find a way to love the behavior, too.

Fortunately, *loving* unwanted behavior doesn’t mean *wanting* it or even tolerating it. You can love unwanted behavior even as you take steps to change it!

The Daily Groove tip to help us adjust our thinking to love unwanted behavior went like this:

I don’t want this behavior, and I may choose not to tolerate this behavior, but I accept that it is what’s happening, here and now, and I LOVE this behavior because ____________________ , and ____________________ , and…”

For example, you could say:

I love this behavior because…

…it’s a clear sign that my child needs help.

…it gives me an opportunity to practice staying connected to my inner power, unconditionally.

…it reminds me how grateful I am just that my child is alive!

I’d like to practice this today with your help.

What could you say to fill in the blanks above? In the comments below, give an example of a recent challenging situation with your child: a meltdown during dinner, difficulty getting to sleep, trouble during a play date. And then share at least one phrase of how you could change your thinking to LOVE the behavior.

I’ll go first: recently, we introduced Kieran to some Sesame Street video games online. He has really enjoyed them, especially one called “Dig for Dinosaurs.” Like any new, fun thing, he asks to play them quite frequently, often at inconvenient times. We’ve had several meltdowns lately when he asks to play and we have to refuse. Instead of getting angry or frustrated over this power struggle, I could shift my thinking to the following:

I love this behavior because…

…it’s a sign that Kieran is expanding his interests and skills.

…it is allowing us to practice the art of compromise and patience.

…it shows me that Kieran is learning how to communicate his choices, and it gives me an opportunity to model how to communicate those things respectfully.

Your turn! What is your challenge, and how could you fill in the blank?

To get your own gentle parenting tip from The Daily Groove, sign up at

  1. Or as I grew up with it, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” There was a second tip about how to put “loving the behavior” into practice, I’m pulling from that tip here, too.

17 Responses to:
"Love the Things You Hate"

  1. Janine   AltHousewife

    My guy is only 4 months old BUT…

    For the last week or so it has been a fight to get Sebastian to sleep. Where nursing to sleep used to be foolproof, now he remains restless while at the breast and kicks and scratches at me as he thrashes, sometimes for an hour before he finally falls asleep.

    I love this behavior because it reminds me that even though he seems to develop a new skill every day, he is still not much older than a newborn, which is a beautiful thing. If I am honest with myself, it is also humbling, as I try so hard to be patient with my baby and sometimes get cocky, but at that moment I am frustrated to tears.

  2. Sara   FamilyOrganic

    I am STILL getting up at night to nurse my 17 month old twins. Last night, I was up 3 times.

    I love this behavior because I know this time is fleeting. Soon they will wean and not need me at night. I love this behavior because I know my milk gives them antibodies and keeps them healthy. I love this behavior because it makes my babies feel secure, that mommy is always there to take care of them.

  3. Sarah

    Not a parent, but as a teacher I decided to answer.

    One of my most challenging kids will routinely refuse to do any work until I sit with him while he does it. It sucks that sometimes I give up my break time or time to work with another student, but its awesome that he likes the time we work together so much (usually this time only consists of me talking to him while he does his work) that if he feels he isn’t getting it, he makes sure I spend time with him too.

  4. Tracy

    i love this behavior because my girls feel safe enough with me to express themselves …
    and because it shows that they are developing all kinds of new skills, thoughts, emotions and feelings every day…
    and because it gives me an opportunit…y to develop my skill at figuring out what might be the real root of the behavior so i can best help them…
    (and i might add that this is really not a bad way to look at dealing with other adults in our lives behaviors, either…!)

    • Ruth

      Tracy…what a great idea…to apply this to others in our lives besides our children!! Why didn’t I think of this before?? Thank you! If I can look at the “back story” to the behavior of others that get under my skin…than I can change the way I react to them!!! I can’t wait to get started today and put this into practice!!!

  5. The ArtsyMama   The_ArtsyMama

    I just wrote about this in my last carnival submission. I loved how Little Man puts his hands in the garbage because it gave me a chance to practice not reacting but responding to my child’s needs in developing an awareness of his surroundings!
    Love this exercise!

  6. One of my 11 month old twins wakes at 4am, ready to play and be awake. I love this behavior because it gives us some quiet time together. I love this behavior because he is always so gosh-darned HAPPY when he wakes in the wee hours.

  7. Holly

    Bedtime is an on again off again struggle for us. Last night was a struggle for the first time in a while so I was easily frustrated. This is a great exercise I should stamp on my forearm. ;)

    I love this behavior…

    1) because it shows she still needs me and having me close means something to her as this time will soon be to an end before I know it

    2) she is learning and developing each new day which can make it can be hard to settle down at bedtime

    3) it reminds me that although she is little she is still a person and even as adults struggle to settle down to sleep I shouldn’t expect it to be any easier for my toddler.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Holly I LOVE your #1. I try to remember that, but it is soooo hard – especially if the bedtime struggles are ongoing for awhile.

  8. Shawna

    My almost 18 month old son keeps going through cycles where he will not stay asleep for more than 30 minutes until I go to bed with him. It’s frustrating because as much as I love him, the two hours a night that he’s asleep before me is the only time during the day or night when I am not physcially with him perpetually.

    I love this behavior because it:
    1. It shows that he still needs me at night no matter how independent he sometimes seems during the day.
    2. It will give us all something to laugh about one day when he’s telling me to go away and give him privacy!

  9. ashley k. smith

    Lately my 2.5 yr old twins have been doing great going to bed on their own for their daddy. But he got a promotion and has been at work for bedtime, so bed is all me AGAIN. For me they want to nurse forever and not go to sleep and won’t let me get out of their bed until they fall asleep…

    I love this behavior because it means no matter how much time we spend together during the day bedtime is our alone and quiet time.
    I love this behavior bc I’ve missed sleeping with my boys so much and this gives me time to reconnect with them.
    I love this behavior bc it gives me some uninterupted time to snuggle, kiss and hug on my first babies that sometimes they miss out on during the day.
    And finally, I love this behavior bc it reminds me that no matter how big they r and how smart they get they r still my babies and I love them more than I ever thought I could.

  10. My 14 year old has been pushing me away, not wanting to share a whole lot of what is going on with him, not responding when I say I love him. I love this behavior because it shows he is exploring possible ways of relating to me in his soon-to-be new role of adult, and because it challenges me to continue to show my love for him no matter what he does or says, doesn’t do or doesn’t say.

    It breaks my heart to say this. I hate that he pushes me away. Thank you for helping me learn how to see it in a positive light.

  11. Amy   InnateWholeness

    I coached with Scott Noelle early on and found his ability to be present very instrumental in becoming aware of my own inner presence/awareness.

    Violence has been the hardest thing for me to deal with over the years. The story has transformed like this (starting with the initial thoughts I had about violence)…

    I hate that my children hurt each other. I feel so angry at the child who hurts. I don’t want it in my home!

    I love the behavior because it shows me that my children needs my help, even if I am not sure how to help.

    I love the behavior because it is allowing me to see where I need to work through my own anger.

    I love the behavior because it is showing me all of the old and current programming that does not work in our family or the world related to children and violence and punishment.

    I love the behavior because it is highlighting my ability to choose my response to my children.

    I love the behavior because it allows me to find and utilize creative, non-violent ways to meet anger and aggression so I am not creating more anger and aggression.

    I love the behavior because it has brought me closer to my children through learning more compassionate ways of being together.

    Wow! :)

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