Unconditional love: Going too far?
Unconditional love for a child begins at home, and starts with the parents. Read on for advice on what unconditional love is and isn't to shape and raise your kids the right way and effectively.
To understand more on what unconditional love is and isn't, consider the below scenario.
Samantha’s mom found her six-year-old daughter sobbing her heart out in her room, burrowed under the covers on her bed. Thinking her daughter was either sick or that something bad had happened, Samantha’s mom scooped her up in her arms and asked what was wrong.
It took Samantha a few minutes to get herself together enough to confess that she’d disobeyed her mother by bringing her peanut butter and jelly sandwich into her room to eat it; dropping a glob of jelly on her comforter. She showed her mom the stain, which she’d smeared into the fabric in an effort to clean it up.
It’s a good thing Mom was on top of things in the parenting department that day, because she was able to make the most of a great opportunity to show what unconditional love looks like.
The first thing she did was to tell Samantha how much she loved her and what a good person she was. She assured her that she was more important to her than any comforter, sandwich or jar of jelly.
Once Samantha was safe and secure in believing she was loved, her mom went on to tell her that she would not be punished for staining the comforter or hiding in her room.
She was going to be punished for disobeying. The punishment wasn’t for eating in her room. It was for the act of disobedience. Samantha understood and life went on.
Do you know what Newton’s third law of motion says? It says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We don’t know if Newton had parenting on his mind when he said that, but he could have.
Unconditional love does not create a false sense of security. Telling a child they are always right, are always the best and should never doubt that they are the most deserving is a huge mistake. Teaching a child to believe these things about himself or herself isn’t unconditional love.
In fact, it will end up having the complete opposite effect on them. Sooner or later, they’re going to realise they’re not perfect. And then what happens? Your child will wonder if they are still deserving of your love.
- Unconditional love is not an excuse for unacceptable behaviour. Sadly, there are parents who truly believe that loving their child unconditionally is equal to letting them get away with murder (figuratively or not).
- Unconditional love is not the switching of your role in the life of your child from parent to friend. Friends give advice, tell you how great you are, comfort you when you’re down and out, tell you what you want or need to hear (depending on the circumstances), stand beside you no matter what and are the ones you confide in and trust with your feelings and emotions. Sounds a lot like a parent, doesn’t it. In some ways, yes, but there are differences. Parents are responsible for a child’s functional needs; friends aren’t. You need to live up to those responsibilities.
The obstacles of unconditional love
I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be - Robert Munsch
Those tender words in the children’s picture book, “I’ll Love You Forever” are embedded in the hearts of parents whether they’ve read the book or not. But let’s face it--being a parent isn’t always easy. Sometimes loving unconditionally requires a parent to make hard choices for the sake of the child.
Baggage of our own often keeps us from loving unconditionally. If you yourself haven’t experienced that unconditional love, then it’s difficult to love our children unconditionally without a little help. Books on parenting as well as parenting classes and family counseling might be just what you and your family need.
Selfishness may be a bitter pill to swallow, but some parents are so self-absorbed that they don’t have room in their hearts for loving unconditionally. To that I say--you made them, they didn’t ask to be born, so you owe it to them to give them the very best of yourself.
When it’s all said and done, loving your child for the mere fact that they are yours is really what being a parent is all about. It’s loving them enough to see past their faults, to help them to see past their faults and to move forward to who they are meant to be.
Loving them unconditionally is allowing them to make mistakes, allowing them to pay the consequences for those mistakes and not feeling any less in love with them than you did before. Just remember, loving unconditionally doesn’t make you a push-over.
Like the old Chinese proverb says…
Parents who don’t ever put their foot down will have children who step on their toes.