Skip to content

Your kids are good, even when their behavior is bad. – Chicago Tribune

Becky Kennedy, clinical psychologist and mom of three, has launched a movement (and a bestselling book, a podcast and a mega-popular Instagram account) based on a simple but profound principle: We are good inside.

When your son exhibits jaw-droppingly bad behavior: He is still good inside. When your daughter says something truly awful to you: She is still good inside. When you respond in a way that makes you cringe the second the words have passed your lips: You are still good inside.

There’s bad behavior. There are poor decisions. There are words and moments and actions driven by hurt or fear or defensiveness or an unmet need. But those are things we do, Kennedy argues, not who we are. And none of them change our internal goodness.

“As soon as we tell ourselves, ‘OK, slow down … I’m good inside … my kid is good inside too …,’ we intervene differently than we would if we allowed our frustration and anger to dictate our decisions,” Kennedy writes in “Good Inside: A Guide To Becoming The Parent You Want To Be.”

Football Highlights

Y2ALYUNNOG4R6UTRSI64HLC5SQ

“Many parents see behavior as the measure of who our kids are, rather than using behavior as a clue to what our kids need,” she writes. “What if we saw behavior as an expression of needs, not identity? Then, rather than shaming our kids for their shortcomings, making them feel unseen and alone, we could help them access their internal goodness, improving their behavior along the way.”

And ours.

Kennedy’s advice primarily applies to parenting. But “Good Inside” is also a book about relationships. She makes clear that her principles and strategies apply to our marriages and partnerships, our friendships, our siblings, our own parents — and that it’s never too late to shift toward a new direction.

“It’s not too late for you to consider what parts of yourself are in need of repair and reconnection,” writes Kennedy, who goes by Dr. Becky. “As adults, we can work on rewiring ourselves and changing the trajectory of our own development. It is not too late. It’s never ever too late.”

The “too late” question is a big one. Kennedy writes that it’s the one she receives from parents more than any other: “But my child is already 3 and I’ve heard that the first 3 years are the most important.” “But my son is 8 and I feel like he’s already so old.” “My daughter is 16; I feel like I’ve lost my chance.” “I’m a grandparent now and I wish I had done all of this different with my own kids. I guess it’s too late, huh?”

“When we, as parents, wonder, ‘Is it too late?’ we’re assuming that the story of our relationship with our child already has an ending,” she writes. “In doing so, we miss something critical: that we can always layer on a new experience, and that new experience will change the ending to that chapter.”

I love that.

The book is filled with blissfully shame-free anecdotes, scripts and strategies on dealing with everything from lying to tantrums to sibling rivalry to separation anxiety to disordered sleeping. A deeply humane thread is woven throughout.

And it’s resonating with people.

“Good Inside” shot to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestsellers list as soon as it debuted. Kennedy’s Instagram (@drbeckyatgoodinside) has 1.4 million followers. She recently launched a membership program with workshops and other extra access to her parenting approaches and advice.

All of which gives me hope. Maybe a bunch of us are just craving a kinder, gentler approach to … well, anything right now. Maybe “Good Inside” is this season’s “Ted Lasso.”

But maybe we’re also turning the page on a parenting style that views children as little perps — always trying to pull a fast one, never to be trusted, on a tireless quest to break our rules, break our boundaries, break our spirits.

“The way parents interact with their kids in their early years forms the blueprint they take with them into the world,” Kennedy writes. “Our earliest relationships influence what parts of us feel lovable, what parts we look to shut down, and what parts we feel ashamed of.

“Children’s experiences with their parents in their earliest years impact how they think about themselves, what they learn to expect of others, what feels safe and good, and what feels threatening and bad,” she writes. “Feeling satisfied with oneself, tolerant of failure, firm in boundaries, capable of self-advocacy, and connected with others … all of the important adult dynamics come from our early wiring.”

Parenting is power, and it’s also a privilege. I’m grateful for anyone who comes along and reminds us to wield it with grace and love and humanity.

Becky Kennedy will be in conversation with Heidi Stevens at 7 p.m. Friday at New Trier High School’s Winnetka campus, 385 Winnetka Ave. The Family Action Network event is free and open to the public. No registration required.

Heidi Stevens is a Tribune News Service columnist. You can reach her at [email protected], find her on Twitter @heidistevens13 or join her Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act Facebook group.

SEE IT HERE