You may well be thinking: ‘How ridiculous Lisa, of course I love my child – 100% without a shadow of a doubt. I don’t even need to think about it.’
I love my kids 24/7. FACT!
You may even continue to back that up with ‘I love them when they smother me in snotty, dirty kisses after a fun afternoon at the park. I love the way they get up all sleepy with bed hair and ask me, ”What’s for breakfast?’ I love it when they say the rudest things at the most inappropriate moments and get away with it.’ (I quote: ‘That lady smells or why has that man got a big belly?)
So you really do love them then?
‘Yes,’ you insist. Could I challenge you a bit further and ask if you still love them just as much when they are incessantly whinging at you for more treats or TV time? ‘Oh yes!’ you cry, ‘I love them when they hang out bedtime and I lose the will to ask them to clean their teeth one more time and GET TO BED!! I love them when they terrorising the cat and think I can’t see them. I love them when the word why makes a car journey seem like an episode of Mastermind (because I said so never being the right answer). I love them when they are late, stubborn, sulky, cheeky, disobedient…………..’ said no parent ever!!!
In fact, I would go as far as to say that sometimes after a particularly fraught and manic day with your little darlings, you may love them most when they are asleep. Gaaaaasp! Yes I really did type that on the Internet for everybody to read. Don’t beat yourself up, you’re human after all!
OK, you see my point. I know they don’t always behave in ways that you like, but you know that you love them. So how do they know that you do?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
So how does the love that is oozing from your every pore (yes I know it is because you really really love your kids even though sometimes they cause you to shout, despair and all manner of uncomfortable feelings) get translated to your child?
You may truly love your child but unless they feel it, they will not feel loved
This simple and maybe obvious (to some) insight came to me via the New York Times best selling ‘5 Love Languages of Children’ by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. This book tells you how by discovering your child’s language of love (one of the 5 listed above) you will keep your child’s emotional tank topped up. An emotional tank is a place of emotional strength that can fuel your child throughout the challenging days of childhood. Just like a car needs petrol to run, your child needs a large supply of unconditional love (real love is unconditional) to get them through. Apparently, you cannot do this until your child is 5. Before this age, the book recommends that you use each one of the 5 love languages in which there are many fab ideas to demonstrate each one.
But I tell my child I love them every day!
Lots of parents just assume their kids will know that they love them or think that by saying ‘I love you’ is enough. Wrong. Children are behaviourally motivated and they respond to actions – what you do with them. So to reach out to them, you need to love them on their terms. You need to speak their language of love.
Love is the foundation
Speaking your child’s love language does not mean he or she will rebel later in life. When a child feels love they are more open to instruction from a parent. Of course it is necessary to discipline your child but only after their emotional tanks have been filled and refilled (they deplete regularly). If you know your child’s love language, you can also discipline them and help them learn in the way that is suitable for them.
“No child can receive too much appropriate unconditional love.”
Love is the solid foundation that gives a child security, hope and a strong sense of self. The child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do their very best.
Conditional vs. Unconditional Love
Love is a child’s greatest emotional need. Without love a small baby would die. Love creates an environment for positive personal growth and therefore, healthy self-esteem. And boy do we need this as adults when life is throwing the pants stuff our way.
When you love your child with conditions and love them only when they please you or do as they are told, that instantly becomes a breeding ground for insecurity.
Think about how you would feel if your partner only loved you when you were doing things that he liked or approved of.
Or what about conditional love only when your child meets your requirements? The child gets a very clear message that says, if I don’t do what you say, am I incompetent. The child could even end up believing that their best is not good enough. Hello a lifetime of insecurity, anxiety, low self-esteem and anger. Double yuck.
In my 30 day step-by-step mini training, ‘Rediscover the Magic of Parenting in a Busy World’ you will find ways to strengthen your emotional connection with your child. You will also get 2 coaching videos presented by me which takes a deep dive into love languages. It’s such a simple and yet, powerful concept.