Like Megan said a few posts ago, we are going to put up some of our favorite thoughts from specific subjects. I decided to “piggy-back” on her recent post about parenting and give you more thoughts on the subject.
I think one of the most obvious, yet most forgotten parenting strategies is showing unconditional love. Not just having unconditional love, but showing unconditional love. Sometimes I get parents in my office who are so frustrated with a child’s behavior, they have forgotten this very key element in their parenting. Children need to be loved and they need to know that they are loved despite their behavior, no matter how rough their behavior patterns are. When we are rejected by others, do we feel better or worse? Do we strive harder or are we more likely to give up? The same answers you might give apply to children. I have seen many children simply give up on “being good” because there was simply no way that their parent was ever going to show them love.
I remember a beautiful 9 year-old girl brought in by her grandparents. The grandparents felt they had saved this child from her traumatic situation with her drug-abusing mother. The grandparents had good hearts and were willing but they felt that because their home was a much better place, this child should behave better. They didn’t understand why she was talking back, not helping, stealing food, etc. Her behavior came from a place of survival and made perfect sense. However, when she had engaged in these rough behaviors, instead of guiding, nurturing, and gently correcting, the grandparents would threaten to send her back to where she came from. No wonder her behaviors continued! She continued to be in a threatening situation and felt no love. When encouraged to do so, the grandparents would respond back with how frustrated they were with her behavior. She made very few changes in the short time I was able to see her.
I also remember a young teenager who showed up to my office after having been caught in an inappropriate situation with a boy. She had some conflicts with her mother and the parents finding her with this boy had not helped their relationship. Even so, I resolved to start on some positive ground and asked mom what she loved about her daughter. The mother just sat there, clearly irritated at my question. She never responded to the question. I watched the young teenager, who’s face showed pure heartbreak at her mother’s silence. My heart broke for her too. No child is going to be motivated to change in the absence of unconditional love. Needless to say, this was only the first of many inappropriate situations with boys that followed. And, you can probably guess that the conflicts with mom continued.
Imagine what might have happened in each of these situations if some love was shown? Perhaps something different. At minimum, these children wouldn’t have felt rejected by their very own guardians, or the people who had committed to love them no matter the situation………or should have made this commitment. Unconditional love is the grounds to positive change. It is the first and sometimes the most far-reaching reinforcement for positive behavior. When you and I want to make a change, knowing that someone supports us and loves us no matter what gives us the courage to try an do better. Children are no different.
Parenting, as we all know, is a challenging job. So if you love your kids, which you know you do, don’t forget to show them a little love. If you’re having a rough day, show them a little more love. My guess is that you’ll feel better and maybe some of that behavior that’s driving you crazy may subside a little.