Colorado Srpings, CO
Monday, March 05, 2012
Jeremy's arguing is downright nasty. His parents respond with understanding and acceptance, but rarely consequences. Consequences make him even more upset. Is that unconditional love?
Liz lies about everything. Her parents yell at her, take away privileges, and every once in a while she's spanked. Liz always yells back, the lying doesn't stop, and everyone's miserable. Is this conditional love or some form of unconditional love ("she's the kid, I'm the adult" type parenting)?
There are about as many opinions about unconditional love as there are parents and experts. One thing seems sure: If you don't love your child just right, you'll raise a messed-up adult. And there's always a public jury handing down a guilty verdict. Is there any worse prison sentence than everyone watching and condemning as your adult child fails because you failed?
Stop. Push the pause button on your "guilt." Unconditional love all the time is impossible unless you've been sainted. But unconditional love is possible 60 percent of the time—if you practice enough. So, how do you pull this off?
Let's first understand unconditional love. Here's what children have told me over the years in one way or another: Unconditional love is feeling completely loved—accepted and understood—no matter the conditions.
No doubt about it, feeling completely loved is life's sweet spot. Here are three guidelines to help you show your child unconditional love more than half the time.
Think of unconditional love as your primary parenting target. Aim as much as possible every day for acceptance and understanding. Expect misses, depending upon the day. There are two rings on the target: The outer ring is daily cherishing your child, and the inner bull's-eye is your child feeling accepted during discipline. Hit the target 60 percent of the time and you'll qualify for the parent Olympic trials.
Now for the target instructions.
Cherish your child daily (the outer ring). Every day target most of your comments toward your child's good, inside, heart parts: your child's appropriate behavior, special talents, successes, and so forth. That's the foundation of unconditional love.
Accept your child during discipline (the bull's-eye). When Jeremy argues, first aim for his heart by listening. Don't forget to keep your facial expression pleasant and your comments to yourself. Then talk (briefly). Agree with his frustration and at least one of his points: "It's true, I do complain about you more than I do about your brother; I'll stop doing that." Do you hear the bull's-eye buzzer?
Then deal with the behavior: "When you continue to argue after I've listened to you, you'll need to go to your room; if you don't, there'll be no screen time for twenty-four hours." This is respectful self-control training, a big part of your unconditional love.
Take-home lesson: Raise a child who feels loved: Hit the unconditional-love target 60 percent of the time by noticing positives more than negatives and by accepting your child during discipline.
Colorado Srpings, CO