Did you know that one of the most critical times for a parent to affirm a child’s talents is when they misbehave? It’s true. We are all born with giftedness–but even good gifts can get twisted by sin (Romans 7:21 reminds us, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”). The challenge for parents is identifying the “gifts” within the misbehavior; what we call “Gifts Gone Awry.”
Gifts That Have Gone Awry
All talents or gifts can be used for God’s purposes, but they can also be distorted by selfishness and sin and used to serve misbehavior. When this happens, the gift is still present, but it’s gone awry. To punish the misbehavior without affirming the talent behind it may both reinforce the child’s identification with the sin (I’m bad!) and stifle or weaken the talent’s use in honorable ways. It is therefore critical when correcting a child’s misbehavior to also affirm and find a positive use of the gift that fueled it.
Need help identifying the gift behind your child’s stubborness or stealing? It can be tough, but here are some examples of common misbehaviors and some gifts/talents that tend to drive them.
12 Misbehaviors and the “Gifts Gone Awry” Behind Them
Arguing/Backtalk → Gift: Honesty, Strong feelings/opinions, Confidence
(Research has shown that argumentative children are less likely to lie or be deceitful. In the long run they are more likely to adopt the values of their parents because they passionately exchange ideas instead of going underground with their perspectives.)
Yelling → Gift: Expressiveness, Desire to be understood
Stubbornness → Gift: Determination, Intensity of focus
Bossiness/Strong Will → Gift: Leadership, Assertiveness
Lying → Gift: Creativity, Good memory, Desire to keep the peace
Stealing → Gift: Planning, Courage, Ability to take risks
Irritability → Gift: Sensitivity
Insecurity → Gift: Awareness of the feelings and perspectives of others
Impulsiveness → Gift: Energy, Living in the moment, Quick responses
Whining → Gift: Persistence, Insight into people (and what makes parents give in…)
Complaining → Gift: Awareness of problems, Potential for good problem-solving
Defensiveness → Gift: Strong sense of right and wrong
(The kids that have the hardest time admitting guilt are usually those who feel the worst about having done something wrong, even if it doesn’t show.)
When Does a Parent Affirm Their Child?
Remember — one of the most critical times for us to affirm our children’s talents is when they misbehave. We have a great opportunity when kids misbehave to look beneath the sin and identify a talent. When we do this, we can help our kids learn to use their talents the way God intended — to help others and to bring God glory.
Apply It Now:
1. What is a common misbehavior your child struggles with?
2. What might be one or more gifts/strengths under the surface of that misbehavior?
3. How could you point that out and help your child use it for good purposes?
4. How might your prayers be different based on this insight?