Updated: May 26
We connect with our child when we meet their 2 greatest needs. In today’s society, food, shelter, warm clothes & security are needs that are easily met. The one inner cry of many children is...
What exactly is LOVE?
Intense feelings of deep affection. If I were to be honest, would my interactions with them be marked by joyful laughing, happy conversations and understanding moments or are there more frustrations and moments of power struggle? What is our daily experience with our child? How do we create more moments of love?
After a party, my 1.5 year old daughter was throwing a tantrum because it was time to go home. I felt like a lousy mother as I tried to speak nicely, bribe her and cajole her. As she held onto the stairs railings crying loudly, I begin to get REALLY upset because of the unnecessary attention she was now drawing from the relatives who had now come out to watch the commotion. With one hand holding onto her wrist, I tried to pull her away from the railing while angrily threatening. “You better come with me.. or...I'll...”
Before I could complete my sentence, an Aunt who was watching, came over to pick her up. As she stroked my daughter’s back, my daughter stopped wailing. Almost immediately.
“All they need is love. Don’t shout at her.” She calmly advised.
I will remember her advice till today because we live in a society that is ‘love scarce’. It was so easy for me to lash out. But the result was pretty obvious, the angrier I got, the angrier she got and we were both angry kids throwing our tantrums!
"All they need is love." Yet how do I love my child when I am angry. That is another topic when I talk about topping the parent up.
For now, the simple answer is it is a process. Topping ourselves up and learning self control is a skill that takes time to master. For now, every-time you unconsciously lash out. Just go back and apologise. When you acknowledge that is NOT how you want them to experience you, something shifts. You authenticity actually tops them up.
My husband use to shout at our daughter when she spilt milk, fell from the bike or was noisy. He was brought up where he was shouted at for small mistakes and he inherited those harsh ways.
"How does scolding a bruised child who just fell from the bike communicate love?" I challenge.
Thank goodness, he understood where I came from and wanted to express love. So, he would apologise after he calmed down. Over the years, I would remind him after he 'exploded' and he would grudgingly at first, but consistently repair the damage. Over time, his anger subsided and he was able to show concern appropriately.
There is no doubt we love our child. In fact, we would give our life for them. Yet, does our child EXPERIENCE our love? Our unconditional acceptance of WHO they are? Daily?
I remind myself "All they need is love" into my everyday life. Once, when my daughter hit her sister, I called her into the room. Squatting down so I was eye-level with her, I asked “Does mommy love you after what you’ve done?”
“No.” She shook her head looking down.
I teared because I knew that was not true.
“I will always love you. I may not be proud of you or unhappy with what you did, but I will always love you.”
I continued to repeat that to each of my 5 children so now they are secure in my love for them. Love is a need to be met, not a bargaining chip to be used in exchange for good behavior. When we love our child unconditionally, especially when they’ve done something wrong, what it opens up is a topping up of their love account. They know they are wrong. They do NOT need us to remind them where they have NOT measured up.
Imagine each of us have an emotional account with our child. If this was an account of love, how full is yours now? Overflowing, near zero or deficit?
The need to be loved is not a negotiable. A ‘need' means the child will be motivated to get that desire met. Speak to the child who hangs out in bad company. At least he is accepted for who he is with his friends. Or the girl who sleeps with her boyfriend for ‘love’. Our kids will find a way to have their love needs met. By us or someone else. What is our choice?
Some parents may say, but Junia, that is license for bad behaviour! No. Loving them unconditionally does not mean I condone the bad actions they’ve done or that they have it easy. I allow natural consequences to play out. So, for example, if my child forgets to bring something to school, they will have to face the music. I will not ‘rescue’ them. If my child wants me to sign something in the morning, I will not. We have an existing agreement that I will always read before signing and if they leave it till the last minute, I will not rush to sign so they won’t get scolded by the teacher.
When I allow life to be their teacher, it’s amazing how quickly they learn about responsibility. Which leads us to their second greatest need.
When they were babies, remember how easy it was for us to unconditionally accept them for all they were. We did not get angry when they could not stand or walk. In fact, we positively encouraged them and even got excited with every success they made. We focused on their wins.
"Wow! He stood for 3 seconds this time!"
Yet, as they grow older, we begin to heap on society's and our own expectations onto them. That effectively cuts off the unconditional love they need. Let's always remember that they are enough. As they are. Each child develops at a different pace and have different interests, strengths, gifts and destinies. Let's NOT fit them into a set mould but free them to explore all they can be.
"The Naked parent" looks at how we can in our own self-discovery, help them discover who they are. Because, isn't it amazing to have a child who is happy, independent and self-fulfilled?
Connecting with our child takes time. The way they spell LOVE is T-I-M-E. Love them because they will retreat into their rooms at teenage years and leave the nest only too soon. Just like we did.
Do watch my YoTube "Why praise brings out the BEST in kids".