How to help a child see that it’s her behavior that’s the problem, not her heart

Mar 25, 2024



Dear Venerable Robina,


I need some advice about our daughter. She is a smart, talented, incredible athlete, social kid. She’s got a good heart, is a kind friend, a leader, gets great grades and is highly motivated by sports. She understands some Dharma – and still learning. 


All this being said, she’s a boundary pusher and has a problem with cussing and can be very cocky. Since she was little, she’s always gotten in trouble at school for not listening, being the class clown, sometimes being disrespectful. 


With all this, she has gotten a poor reputation with some parents who don’t want their child spending time with her and some sports coaches choosing not to work with her despite her massive talent. 


We as parents think she is pure gold. We support her always, and work to guide her and to teach her to be a good person, and how to navigate life.


But when hard things happen for her, it is incredibly painful for me. She cries to me asking why grown-ups don’t like her, and that she doesn’t want to be the bad kid. I feel like I am constantly on the defense of her and have some extra sensitivity surrounding her. 


I also recognize that I create negative stories around how I think my child is being perceived that aren’t always true. I realize I have immense attachment to her, and also she has her own karmic ripening. 


Sometimes I get so sad, hurt, depressed and anxious about it I don’t know what to do about it. I often feel like I want to take her away from it all and bring her somewhere so she can be protected and safe and learn. 


I’d appreciate any words of advice. I am hurting a lot. 


Much, much love,




A, dear one. I understand exactly.


How fortunate she is to have you both. But, like all of us, she has to learn from her own experience. 


I’d hear my father say those words to my mother so many times when it came to me. I recognize myself in your beloved daughter! My mother would repeatedly defend me, pick me up, when actually she shouldn’t have. I’d hear my father say those words and I’d think and think about what it meant. 


So love your girl to death, but give her the respect that she deserves and don’t be afraid to help her see she needs to learn to control her behavior, how she is with other people.


Because that’s the problem. All my life I’d be direct, say what I felt, etc., etc., and then people would be scared of me, reject me. At school I was broken-hearted because the nuns didn’t see my good side; I was always getting punished. Later in life, often the same.


One time when I was with Lama Yeshe and I was full of self-pity because of some blame put on me and Lama said, “There’s nothing wrong with your heart dear, it’s just your behavior.”


I understood for the first time: I had to learn to control my speech. I had to grow up, stop blaming other people for being scared of me, rejecting me. I had to change my behavior.


These words seem so simple, but they are profound. 


The lamas say: when we’re with others, control our body and speech; when we’re on our own, control our mind.


So, yes, love your daughter, protect her, encourage her, praise her – and help her see that she can learn to harness her energy, to take responsibility. If she’s intelligent, which she is, she can do it.


Be brave!


Much love,



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