Behavior Modification Through Love

behavior modification

Rules may curb bad behavior or restrain it for a time, but real growth occurs when our hearts are changed… when we want to behave differently. For parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the game of behavior modification and feel like we’re getting it right as long as things look okay on the surface. But that never seems to last, does it? The rules you put in place for your kids keep them safe and accountable, but it’s your love—sometimes given when they least deserve it—that will transform their hearts. Rules without love just feel like oppression, and love without standards falls short as well. It’s a difficult balancing act for a parent, but it’s the formula that works. Learn how to encourage lasting change in your child’s heart, starting today.

Don’t take their rebellion personally.

It’s hard to do, we know. But if you can separate yourself from your child’s behavior to some extent, it will help you make a more balanced, objective assessment of what’s really going on. Seeing it as an act of aggression or spite toward you just stirs up anger and makes it harder for you to parent with a clear head. There are lots of reasons kids rebel, and most of them have little to do with you.

Remember that correction and affection are not mutually exclusive.

You can impose correction and give big hugs at the same time. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the way it happens. You can be a firm parent—one who doesn’t back down from discipline or go soft on the consequences—without being a harsh or angry parent. I can remember my father often saying, “It’s because I love you so much that I can’t allow you to think this is okay or continue to act this way.” Sure, I rolled my eyes at the time. But deep down, I knew it was true.

Do as much explaining as you do enforcing.

Some parents are great when it comes to putting rules in place and enforcing consequences when they’re broken. But ample communication about why the rules are as they are, and what the better choice for your child would be and why makes it all seem less arbitrary. Rules that aren’t laid out with good communication just feel like oppression and unnecessary control. {Tweet This} (Granted, we know that there is a time for Because I said so and Because I’m the parent. But try some reasonable explanation first.)

Invest in the relationship.

Spend ample time with your child and talk about the things that are important to both of you. It builds a sense of relationship between you that will make the tougher parenting moments more productive. Remember: Rules without relationship = Rebellion. It’s the relationship that makes the whole thing work.

How do you modify your child’s behavior through love?


  • Emma Fisher

    Thank you for your article, very well written and right on point. For me it’s all about Love. Whether it’s a conflict between the kids, or the kids with a friend, or a conversation in front of the kids about an adult in our life, it’s whether or not we’re being loving. From Day 1 with my son and daughter it’s been an eye-to-eye, on their level, soft words, with gentle touch and explanations for boundaries. My husband and I feel that because they felt our love, and because of the trust relationship we built with them, they WANT to have correct behavior, they WANT to please us, because they love us. And when they misbehave, or lose patience with one another, we enforce the consequences set up from the beginning, typically a physical distance (time out) is enough. Followed with LOTS of love and affection. I love my kids when they’re “good” and when they’re “bad”, just as God does for all of us.

  • lookchoozact

    All good advice, I would add that there are *some* kids who really take this to the next level, they seem to *need* to challenge all the rules to find out if the boundaries are actually there. It can take a lot of consistency, and parental self-control, to withstand the barrage that this type of child dishes out. My husband used to say, “Act twice as fast and say half as much.” when dealing with our oldest. The rules are the same, but just be forearmed that it can take a lot more parental effort for some kids who are not compliant by nature. And please know you are not alone, it can be kind of lonely parenting these little firecrackers!

    • mum23boys

      Thanks for your comment. I have one like that, and your experience has prompted some hope at my end! 🙂

  • Angela

    Great advice.

  • Marnie

    I always tell my children no matter how upset or disappointed in them I get for their behavior; I reiterate it’s the behavior, not them as people. No matter what I love them and love them as much as when I am happy with them. They are priceless and always loved, just not the bad behavior.