Our children will always seek our love.
As they grow up, they may equate a parent’s discipline to a lack of love from that parent. It doesn’t help that some parents say things like “nobody loves a naughty kid” to encourage good behaviour and conformity. This may lead them to believe that they are loved only when they are good or live up to parental expectations.
That mistaken way of thinking, if left unaddressed, can begin to dictate their lives. Our children may become performance-driven in order to be loved and accepted by us. They may become insecure of their decisions and of themselves as they constantly seek to please. Others may study hard, dress in a certain manner, act religious, and even marry just to be endorsed by their parents (or others) because they think that’s the only way their folks will love them.
No matter what
To combat this mindset, parents need to talk about and demonstrate unconditional love. Our children need to know that we may not always like their actions nor approve of the way they dress or speak, but our love for them remains the same.
“Our children need to know that we may not always like their actions nor approve of the way they dress or speak, but our love for them remains the same.”
When our kids understand that, they will realise pleasing others and deriving their self-worth from others’ opinions of them is not the way to live! They grow up with higher self-esteem and less self-condemnation. Most of all, their relationship with the family becomes more intimate and they become more willing to open up, because they don’t walk around in fear of failure.
One night before the ‘O’ Level results were released, my friend said to his son, “Honey, I want you to know one thing. Whether you get all A’s or all F’s for your exams, your mother and I love you the same. Our love for you does not change because of your results.” He later heard his son telling his friend if he had known his dad thought that way, he wouldn’t have worked so hard.
I laughed when I heard the story, but it does speak of something our children struggle with—the fear of losing our affection if they fall short of our expectations.
Their biggest cheerleader
While we would like to believe our children can succeed at anything they put their heart to, the truth is that there will be many times when they won’t. Some will not fare well in sports, arts or studies. They may not be the next ‘big thing’ that we had hoped they would ultimately be.
It is painful for the children (and parents) when they are not chosen for a sport or not included in an activity. It is heartbreaking to watch other kids ignore yours because they are not fast enough, tall enough, smart enough or talented enough. But let’s remember not to load the rejection we may feel (as a parent) upon their little shoulders.
When our kids go through such experiences, there are some things that we can do to help as parents.
Affirm them for who they are, not for what they can do. Even if they struggle to succeed or achieve stellar results in what they are doing, let us celebrate their effort and determination.
Help them explore some ways to address the situation and encourage them not to give up if they are still keen. For example, if your child was not chosen to join the soccer team, explore if it was a lack of control of the ball as the game could be new to him or her. If there still is interest in developing skills in that sport, perhaps you or a coach can help with teaching your child some basic skills.
If that doesn’t work out, help them look for other options where they may be more inclined to succeed.
“Affirm them for who they are, not for what they can do.”
Let’s constantly remind our precious children of our love, especially after they have failed at something, and continually support them in the journey of life.
©2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved
Gary thoroughly loves travelling, good food and having lots of fun with his family. He believes that life is better when you get to do things with the people you love.