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Elementary Years > Reasons Are Not Excuses

 Reasons Are Not Excuses

by Foster W. Cline, MD and Lisa C. Greene 

There are many parenting resources out there that emphasize:

  • Understanding your child
  • Searching for his or her reasons for misbehavior
  • If your children are misbehaving, then understand and nurture them 

The importance of giving children love, nurturing, and understanding cannot be over emphasized.  It's absolutely important.  And love is the most important component of all lasting relationships.  But giving love and understanding is not the whole story.   

In fact, when high functioning and loving parents have trouble with their children, it is generally not because they haven't been loving or nurturing enough.  It is because the parents, in their love, have made understanding the reasons for misbehavior synonymous with excusing misbehavior. 

We’d like to make this point: There are always reasons for misbehavior and reasons for misbehavior can always be understood.In this world, there is much misbehavior by individuals, groups and nations which should be understood…  but not excused!

Let us look at some examples:

If I (Foster) develop a serious brain tumor, I could be disrespectful, antagonistic, or, heaven forbid, even abusive to my wife.  A brain tumor is an excellent reason for misbehavior.  And when misbehavior is understood, often the underlying cause can be helped.  I, with my brain tumor, might be helped by surgery or perhaps my behavior could be helped with certain medication.  

However, in my present non-compromised thinking, I would never want my wife to put up with such behavior. I might need home health care delivered by people who are paid to put up with me or I might even need to be put into hospice. So even though a brain tumor is an excellent reason for my misbehavior, it shouldn’t be ignored or excused. That doesn’t help me and it certainly doesn’t help my dear wife! 

Likewise, a child not having enough sleep, feeling misunderstood by his teacher, or being chronically ill has plenty of good reasons for treating his mother with a sassy lack of compliance. That doesn't mean she should put up with it or excuse it.

Raising a Victim:

“Eric, I'm going to the store.”

"Can I go with you?"

"You were not very nice yesterday in the store."

"Yeah, but I was tired."

"Well, are you going to act that way with me today?"


"Okay, get your coat."

The child learns: When I'm tired, it's okay to misbehave. Someday, down the line, Eric will think it's “perfectly acceptable” to scream at his wife if he had a hard day at work or doesn't feel good.

Raising a Victor:

“Eric, I'm going to the store.”

"Can I go with you?"

"You were not very nice yesterday in the store."

"Yeah, but I was tired."

"Are you tired today?"


"Well, that's wonderful! Now you're amazing brain can figure out how to get more sleep or control yourself if you are tired.  Let me know your thoughts.  I'm interested in them.  See you in a little bit, sweetheart.  Bye."

The child learns: "When I am tired my behavior can become unacceptable. Misbehavior has consequences no matter what the reason.  I better figure out how to cope with my problems and have self-control."

And this child becomes a victor, learns to handle challenges well, and hopefully, becomes a leader down the line.

Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parent educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health Issues."Visit  www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.

Copyright by Foster Cline, MD and Lisa Greene. All rights reserved.   

This website is the sole property of Lisa C. Greene, M.A., CFLE. Lisa is a certified parent coach, certified family life educator, public speaker, and a mom. She is also the co-author with Foster Cline, MD of the award-winning Love and Logic® book “Parenting Children with Health Issues.” For more information,  visit visit www.PCWHI.com.  
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The information published on this website or in any connected material is the opinion of Lisa C. Greene dba Happy Heart Families only and is not meant to replace professional medical or mental health care.  Persons should always seek the advice of a medical professional when making decisions about personal healthcare or treatment.

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