Absolute Value

November 12, 2010 at 12:33 pm (Attachment Parenting, Positive Discipline)

I liked this analogy I read today…about thinking of a child’s behavior not in terms of “positive” or “negative”, but as an absolute.

:: The Absolute Value of Your Child ::

If you were forced to study algebra when you were a
teenager, it probably didn’t occur to you that it
would one day come in handy as a metaphor for
unconditional love. But here it is…In mathematics, the “absolute value” of a number is
its *magnitude* regardless of whether it’s positive
or negative. So the numbers +50 and -50 have the same
absolute value: 50. 

Likewise, practicing the Art of Unconditionality
often means disregarding the negative interpretations
of a condition or behavior and finding a way to see
it in a positive light. For example:

* Whether your child says “I love you” or “I hate
you,” you can appreciate the magnitude of her
expressiveness and emotional honesty.

* Whether your child rebels or complies with your
wishes, you can appreciate his absolute freedom
of choice.

Today as you observe your child, if you see any
“negative” behavior then ask yourself, “What is this
telling me about the ‘absolute value’ of my child?”

~Scott Noellle
The Daily Groove

It may be kind of abstract, but it’s a good challenge for me: try to take away the negative connotation of my kids’ taxing behavior.  Rather than get bogged down with what should be; how my child should behave, I can accept what is. If I can do that, I can see who my children are and focus on finding effective ways to help them succeed when their behavior is less than ideal.  When I get caught up in the shouldsand should nots, I lose sight of my kids’ developmental capabilities and subsequent limitations, both emotionally and cognitively.

Even if their behavior is exemplary, it’s still intriguing to think about taking away that “positive” label and getting down to the absolute: who my child is.  My child is thoughtful.  My child is caring.  My child notices when someone else is in distress and considers the reasons why.  My child can also sit still through a meal in a restaurant and hold my hand in a parking lot.  Is that “good” behavior?  I know I sure appreciate it, but it’s no better than the behavior of my child lashing out verbally as a means of emotional expression. It just is.  My children recognize their own feelings enough to know how to express them in an age-appropriate way.

All the behavior I’ve seen in my children has all come into our lives in a timely manner (developmentally speaking), and it will depart just the same.  In the meantime, I can disregard the Positive and Negative labels, and consider each “absolute” child.  I can challenge myself to forget the shoulds and should nots, and just accept my children for who they are in every stage of their development!


  1. Aria said,

    I LOVED this Daily Groove when it popped into my inbox this morning, too!

    • Kelly said,

      Yes, some of his DGs really resonate with me!

  2. Take Time For Training said,

    What a thought-provoking perspective, Kelly. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Amy said,

    This was really good! I’ve just introduced Brian to your blog – he’s already pondering notes to send you. 🙂

    • Kelly said,

      Oh good, thanks! I’m looking forward to them!

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