How to Turn Misbehavior Into Success!

Few watching Jonathan Horton faithfully anchor the 2012 US Men’s Gymnastics team would guess that, apparently, he was quite a squirrelly youngster! But “squirrelly” is definitely the right word — as a commercial that aired during the Olympics describes, a young Jonathan Horton once climbed to the top of a shelf in the middle of a store!

Can you imagine how most parents would react? “Get down from there RIGHT NOW!” “I can’t believe you!” “You’re GROUNDED!” Much scolding and punishment! And if the Hortons had reacted that way, we probably would not have heard of Jonathan Horton.

Instead of reacting with anger, they gave him gymnastics lessons. They found the gift hidden inside the misbehavior — or, as we like to call it, the “gift gone awry.” Most misbehavior is simply a sinful expression of a God-given gift. If we can stay calm and focus on “whatever is good” (Phil. 4:8), we can help our children to channel their gifts in a godly direction rather than a sinful one.

  • A whining child might have the gift of persistence.
  • A sassy child may be able to paint pictures with their words.
  • A tantrumming child may have a dramatic bent.
  • A lying child is creative, and possibly wants to keep the peace.
  • A shelf-climbing child just might have a gymnast inside of him.

Try, when your kids misbehave in these ways, to not scold shamefully, but to include a compliment and an honoring expression of the gift as part of the consequence. Remember, you never know where your child’s gift could take them if they learn to channel it in a God-honoring direction.