This is the second article in a series of blogs that explores various aspects of parenting. The first article is called Ages and Stages, offering a glimpse into the various stages that notably the child goes through but also ways in which the parental role changes as the stages change. The link to the Ages and Stages article can be found here.
This article focuses on Loving Our Child and explores various ways in which we love our children. Future blogs will explore Discipline, The Power of Thoughts, and finally How well do you know your child.
It is our hope and objective that by raising the awareness of these topics, we will provide a platform for parents and children to share their experiences, to engage in a meaningful discussion on what works and what doesn’t and ultimately this would be of benefit to all of us through the shared wisdom.
Loving Our Child
Do you love your child? children? “Of course I do!!!” I hear you saying. “What a crazy question to ask!!” Well, before you start judging me and deleting this blog, let me say that in the parenting workshops that we conduct, this is a typical reaction from the parents that are in attendance. So you are not alone in thinking how anyone can question the love you have for your child.
Before we explore this topic further, let me pose another question. Do you love yourself? If you do, congratulations. Loving yourself is not about having a vain attitude towards your outward appearance, rather it is embracing your whole being, body, mind and soul. Are you too critical towards yourself? Do you think of yourself as too fat, too thin, too short, etc. Do you constantly send negative messages to yourself? That is not the way to love oneself. Louise Hay, an inspirational speaker and author of many books on healing (see www.louisehay.com), is a big proponent of self-love. She asserts in her book, “You can Heal your Life” that true self-love includes taking care of your body, being kind to yourself, being at peace, forgiving yourself and many other such attributes. And this would confirm the saying that “You can never love anybody if you are unable to love yourself”. So loving yourself is a key pre-requisite to loving others. As John Lennon so beautifully says: “We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others.”
So back to our original question of do you love your child? Perhaps the question can be re-phrased by adding a word at the beginning. Hence, the question becomes “How do you love your child?”. Most parents would answer the question by stating that they provide food, shelter and clothing for their child, that the child has access to appropriate schooling, that the child is taken to extra-curricular activities such as sports, music practice and so on. To many parents these things are evidence of loving their child and to a small extent they are true.
And if we further elaborate and ask parents the question, “How does your child know that you love them?”, the parents would respond as above (providing things), and that parent-child love is implied with the provision of life’s basic necessities.
The big ah-ha! moment comes when the question is asked, do you actually tell your child that you love him or her. Are the words, “I love you” uttered through your lips to your child. And is love also expressed in the form of hugs, kisses and smiles? In some cultures, love between parents and children is implied and yet in other cultures it is expressed much more openly. In the former cultures, children tend to grow up more reserved and more serious and in the latter cultures, they possess more self-confidence and tend to be joyful and exuberant.
In addition to the above mentioned means (explicit affirmation of love, personal touch and contact) love can also be expressed in other forms. Listening, body language and positive communication all go a long way in confirming to the child the unconditional love of their parents.
In this techno-gadget filled era, the art of listening seems to have taken a very different turn. Multi-tasking is all the rage and how much active listening takes place is up for debate. With small children it takes on a greater significance as they need eye contact, hand-holding and repeating of key points. Listening with your eyes, listening with your heart, listening without judging and arguing, sitting beside them or kneeling down to make eye contact are all important aspects of effective communication with young children. And these aspects have to be applied from an early age, otherwise the parents will be left with “yes/no” answers, everybody’s favorite one of “nothing” in response to what you did in school today or worse still “I don’t know.” On the other hand, success with these techniques early on in a child’s life will nurture self-confidence and will give courage to the child to talk about difficult or uncomfortable things.
The other important quality to demonstrate when listening to a child is patience. We are all very busy and want to rush through conversation. A child may be thinking of the words to use, their grammar might not be perfect, they might be hesitant and there might be long pauses. The child needs to feel that all these things are perfectly normal and not be hurried into a quick conversation that does not allow him/her to express feelings and emotions.
In summary, yes, we all love our children. The quality of love, the expression of the love and the form that the love takes are important factors that help create an environment in which the child feels loved. This in turn to leads to the child feeling comfortable expressing their thoughts, feelings and emotions in an open and accepting manner.
“Children have unselfish love. They are innocent onlookers. They observe the actions of the elders and they learn their lessons from the home much earlier than from school. So parents have to be careful in their behavior with the children and between themselves” – Sathya Sai Baba