Parents are in an interesting business. It’s our job to create relationships of trust with our children. Then, when they are facing life’s truly difficult situations, they will know they have support. Some of the key ingredients to building these relationships include unconditional love, clearly defined rules, consistent application of rules, and a deep understanding of each child.
First of all, I want my children to know I love them unconditionally. I spend a lot of my time trying to teach my children that they are loved this way. It’s interesting though, I find myself mimicking how they treat me. Perhaps, they already know how to love unconditionally, and it is I who needs to learn again how to do so?
Loving someone unconditionally means that they are accepted for who they are. It also means they are encouraged to be their best self and given the opportunity to develop their interests and talents. This love doesn’t diminish if the child makes a poor choice or inconveniences my life. In fact, this love does the opposite and increases during the trying times. It expands to surround the child and hold them in safety, even when they are acting out. Unconditional love is what allows a wayward child to feel safe enough to come back home.
Conditional love, on the other hand, only loves people when they are doing what the lover expects of them. When the child misbehaves, or is inconvenient, conditional love withdraws, blames, or is punitive. It may sound like “Well, if you weren’t such a trouble maker…” Or, “Why can’t you be more like….” Sometimes conditional love excludes a child from the family because of a poor choice or an embarrassment the child caused.
Unconditional love does not enable bad behavior. Nor does it keep natural consequences from occurring. It loves the child through the consequences, and offers sympathy – a safe place to cry and work out the problems, not have the problems solved for the child.
Loving my children unconditionally is a trait that I must work on daily. There are plenty of examples of conditional love out there in the popular culture, and very few examples of unconditional love. I must make it a priority to show my children this love on a moment to moment, day to day basis. For that matter, my husband also needs to know he is loved this way.
Unconditional love, in a family, is something both parents need to give to their children. Amazingly enough, children come with a great capacity to show unconditional love. However, if they aren’t shown this love consistently, they can lose their ability to do so. Children mimic what they experience and example is the best teacher.
I hope to be able to follow my children’s examples and develop more fully unconditional love in my heart. I guess it could be said that unconditional love is something that I’m learning from my children. Hopefully, I learn my lesson before my children need to relearn it.