Welcome to the Beyond Discipline: 10 Building Blocks for Positive Parenting Series.
This is the 1st post in a series of 10 posts on the Building Blocks for positive parenting. If you missed it, the INTRO post is here. This series is intended to share the building blocks for positive parenting. The ideas posted here may challenge what you believe, or re-affirm the path you are on – there are no MUSTS being set here, no promises of quick fixes or fail-proof methods….what I’m sharing are building blocks (ideas) to help you put the focus of your parenting where you feel it needs to be.
Each week I will be sharing ONE building block along with questions intended for reflection and personal growth and share some tools and ideas for implementing each building block into your parenting and family life as YOU see fit.
Building Block #1
Unconditional love is a love that is always present.
Unconditional Love and Parenting
Children need to feel loved – no matter what. Yes, even when it seems like they least deserve it. As children grow and develop, mistakes, “misbehavior”, “bad” choices are inevitable – that is precisely why children need to know that they are loved. It is with that security that they can feel free to make mistakes and take risks that lead to discovery and learning.
With the safety of unconditional love, children come to see parents as a guide not someone that will reject them when they make a decision the parent doesn’t agree with or that turned out to be inappropriate.
Unconditional love is not the same as condoning or overlooking unacceptable or baffling behavior or letting children rule the house.
It is about making an effort NOT to withhold affection as a means to control behavior and emotions. It’s also about striving to give affection in genuine ways and NOT in ways that are solely attached to conditions like grades, achievements, helping around the house, “good” behavior and so on…
In a loving environment, as parents we can strive to be warm and compassionate even in the face of behavior that is unacceptable, dangerous or inappropriate. When we approach any parenting moment with warmth and the desire to encourage understanding and cooperation we are paving the way for a child to trust that they can turn to us, their parent, as a guide, a model, a coach and a voice to be trusted, not feared.
Children need to know that their parents love them, without ever thinking that love is some sort of currency that can be withheld. When we love our children unconditionally, it means they can stop worrying about doing well enough or being a certain way to GET love and simply focus on doing things because they are engaged, curious, capable and interested.
Unconditional Love In Practice
Let’s suppose one sibling hits another.
Mom hugs the hurt sibling then starts yelling at the other child “How could you? What were you thinking!! Go to your room, I’m done with you. I can’t stand it when you do stuff like this. Don’t get out until you can be good.”
How do you think this reaction makes the children feel?
Let’s consider this alternative reaction with unconditional love and compassion in mind.
Mom hugs the hurt sibling and says, I’m going to talk to your brother now, I’ll be right back. Mom goes to the other sibling and says calmly “Can you tell me what happened?” Or if the child is really wound up Mom can say “Would you like a few minutes to cool off? We can talk about this in a little while.”
A while later when everyone is calmer, mom and child can talk, mom can restate the limits of the house “hitting is unacceptable”, mom can also validate feelings “Were you angry?” offer alternatives “Hitting when we are angry hurts other – what are somethings you CAN do when you are angry?”
With compassion mom can try to understand the situation, what the child was thinking and then invite the child to make amends.
Parenting Tools to Try
Time IN instead of Time Out: Where time out can feel isolating and rejecting to children, a time IN or a time to have a calm, quiet chat is really restorative and connecting.
Family Cool Off: Instead of demanding that a child “go away” or “get into your room, now!” suggest kindly that everyone take a short break to cool off. Model doing this as well “I’m feeling upset so I am taking a few minutes to myself to think and cool off. I’ll be back in a few minutes” or “Let’s all take a break from each other”
This Post has alternatives to Time-Outs specifically for Toddlers.
Questions for reflection:
Did anyone significant in your life ever withhold love or affection from you as a result of something that you did or didn’t do? How did that make you feel? What decisions did you make about yourself in that moment?
In which ways might you be using love as a currency with your child? Do you refuse to give them affection when they have done something that you disapprove of? How may you choose to change that going forward?
I would love to hear in the comments how these ideas are impacting your parenting or if you have any questions, so please feel free to comment below.
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Peace & Be Well,