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Do you love your child?
Of course you do!!
But does your child feel loved?
Unfortunately – the answer to that probably is – “Maybe not”
Being a parent and not loving your child – is impossible. But as I go about interacting with children during my consultations and workshops – I am amazed as I discover how many children go through life feeling unloved.
At a recent workshop for Teenagers – I had a slide that asked the question – “What is the chief cause of Teenage stress?” and I was shocked and dismayed when the unanimous answer turned out to be “Parents”.
These are children from affectionate families. Children of parents who have spent their lives doing EVERYTHING for their children. And yet these children are growing up feeling stressed instead of loved.
This is certainly a very sorry state of events.
The cause for this – is a mismatch between what parents view as a demonstration of love and what children read as love.
If you express your love for your child by doing one or more of the following things – your child may be feeling stifled instead of loved.
1. “I have left EVERYTHING for my baby” – Do you set aside all your own needs for your child?
One of the first things that parents vow to do as soon as they hold their little ones in their arms is – to set aside all their own interests and needs for their youngsters. While setting aside your own needs to become your child’s personal satellite – may appear loving at first – it can never last. Living like a martyr inevitably builds resentment in you - which is invariably communicated by body language. When you set aside all your needs - most often you are attempting to compensate for your own low self-esteem. Living with martyrdom is not living with love.
2. “I am with my child all the time” – Do you compel yourself to spend all your time with your child?
Parents are constantly advised to spend more time with their children. And they are asked to make the time spent “Quality Time”. Most parents interpret this to mean that every moment they spend with their child should be spent doing something or teaching something. What this results in is - that the hours that parents spend with their youngsters are filled with high demands (which are often age inappropriate) in order to utilize the time being spent most effectively and ensure that it meets the definition of ‘Quality Time’. The conversation during this time therefore ends up consisting primarily of criticisms, comparisons, demeaning statements and eventual lack of respect.
Remember - the time you spend with your child becomes counterproductive when comments like these become part of the conversation.
“You are not doing it properly! How many times do I have to show you?”
“Oh! You are making such a mess! Come let me do it.”
“Look at your brother – why can’t you do it like him?”
“Stop dawdling – you are wasting time!”
3. “I am always very careful with my child” – Do you over-protect your child?
Being a watchful parent is essential – but over protection is not the right way to express love. When you are over-protective - your prime purpose of being with your child becomes - guiding and directing him/her at every turn. Instead of conveying love – over protection undermines self-respect. Over protection does not say – “you are loveable” – it says – “you are not competent.” When you over protect your child you convey the idea that the world is full of dangers that your child is incapable of handling alone. Feeling loved is about feeling respected for being who you are and having the abilities that you have. And the first step towards feeling respected - is developing a deep sense of self-respect. Over protection then is not an expression of love – but a sure fire way of stunting the growth of self-respect.
4. “I never scold / criticize my child” – Do you constantly and needlessly lavish praise?
Every child is unique and special in his/her own way and needs to feel good about himself and his achievements. Demeaning or criticising children is certainly extremely damaging to a child’s self-esteem. But when, in an attempt to make children feel good – parents exaggerate the child’s qualities and achievements and say that they expect him /her to do earth shaking things – what they achieve – is equally damaging. On the surface – praising a child may appear like the ultimate expression of love. But if the child knows that this picture is untrue and knows that it will be impossible for him to live up his parent’s expectations – it is certain to make the child feel inadequate and unloved as he really is. Casting a child in a role that meets our requirements rather than his – does not build love. Each child needs to be valued apart from his/her achievements. A quiet companionable expression of love in private – is likely to be much more effective than an elaborate charade
5. “I give my child the best of everything” – Do you express your love with material gifts?
In today’s world it seems like the most natural thing on earth to express your love with gifts. And while it may be the ‘done’ thing – with everyone else doing it and your child demanding it – it is important to remember that every ‘thing’ that you give to show your love – either has, or will soon have a bigger better version. When you teach your child to measure your love by a comparative analysis of the ‘things’ you give him – there is no way he will ever feel fulfilled.
All that a child really wants – is your focused attention – that is what children read as love.
But what is focus?
Many parents imagine that they are focussed on their children – just by being physically present. Physical presence is pointless if mental focus is elsewhere
Mental focus also needs to be repeatedly brought back to the child. Often – we imagine that we are focused on the child – when actually we are focused on our child’s schedule or things or on what he/she is doing/achieving.
Children require inner presence – they require you to be there with them in that moment. Without that – time together is wasted or even harmful.
Don’t focus so much on doing things for your child that you forget to focus on him.
When you do that - paradoxically – in your effort to make your child feel loved – you are probably making him/her – feel just the opposite.
Love is the feeling of being valued because you ARE – not because of what you DO.
And when you focus too much on doing – you lose the chance to just be.
Find a time each day to just be with your child – it is sure to make him/her feel more loved.