08 Jul Living Love for Children
(This is the third in a three part series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2)
For years there was a huge chasm in my marriage called parenting. Any time my husband and I would discuss discipline, behavior issues, or how to change our family culture and help our children, there would be arguments, resentment, and no solutions. Both my husband and I were committed to our relationship and to our family, but we honestly had no solutions for our differences and it was creating some serious trouble. This situation led us to a lot of study, prayer, and searching. The discovery of “Living Love” was the first step in coming together in our parenting styles, which has opened the door for healing and a complete change for the better in our family dynamic.
LIving Love focuses on the child, not the behavior. Most parenting programs focus on correcting behavior of the child. After all, if the child is “good”, the parents look good, and parenting is easier. Alfie Kohn, author of “Unconditional Parenting” says “I realized that this is what many people in society seem to want most from children: not that they are caring or creative or curious, but simply that they are well behaved. A “good child”-from infancy to adolescence-is one who isn’t much trouble to us grown-ups.” If the parent focuses on behavior, punishing and/or praising, the child may not be much trouble (or they may push back, rebelling), but their self worth becomes based on their parent’s reaction to them, and they don’t discover the beauty and security of who they really are.
Living Love teaches the child that first, they are loved. Yes, there will need to be daily correction and guidance from the parent to the child, but punishment is not part of the daily routine. Punishment makes the child feel bad in an effort to make them do better. How often do we, as adults, feel motivated to DO better when we feel bad? There are better ways to address misbehavior. beginning with creating a foundation of love in the relationship. Here are some ideas for creating that foundation of Living Love:
Show love, don’t withdraw love.
This idea may be contrary to all parenting advice you’ve heard, but when a child is in distress, even throwing a fit, it’s not the time to send them away to “time out”. Instead, acknowledge that they are angry or upset. Offer a hug. They may act like they don’t want a hug, but if you stay calm and sincere, it may be just what they need in their moment of distress. If they don’t respond positively to acknowledgement and a hug, walk with them to their bedroom, expressing that you understand they may need some alone time to calm down. Some may say that by giving a hug or acknowledging their feelings you are rewarding bad behavior and if you do that, they will behave badly more often in order to get your love. I submit that the opposite is true. Try it and see. You may discover that in giving love and understanding rather than punishment when your child is in distress, the negative behaviors will decrease because your child feels more secure and loved.
Get into your child’s world and play!
What does your child enjoy? What do they love to learn about and do? Set some time aside to just be with your child and let him lead the way as you play together. I was amazed at what I learned about my little daughter doing just that. For younger children, all you need to do is be present and interested. They will play and tell you what to do, or they will just be content to have you watching their play and acknowledging their creative ability. If your kids are older, let them choose an activity that you do together. Let them teach you about something they are interested in. It may take getting out of your comfort zone and into their world, but what a beautiful experience it is to understand our children from the perspective of their personal talents, interests, and ideas!
Read to your family.
Reading is one of the very best ways to bond with your children. One is never too old to be read to. When I was a teen my dad read out loud to us every Sunday evening. I cherish those times together and love to remember my dad’s voice as he read great stories. I knew he loved me because of the time we spent together reading. When I became a mother, I began reading to my children as well, and now we have established a culture of reading together. Our children enjoy the time spent listening to mom or dad read aloud, and we have many good discussions about what we are reading. Reading opens many doors and it’s a great place to start showing interest in your child
There are as many ways to be in “Living Love” with your children as there are children and families in the world. Remember to show your children love-even when they are in distress, and you will create the foundation of Living Love in your family.