Over the years as I have taught literally thousands of parents, I have found one thing missing in most parent child relationships. It is the one thing everyone needs and the one thing most live their entire lifetime without. That thing is a relationship based on unconditional love.
Many mistake this as love without parameters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unconditional love says no matter what I am going to love you, our relationship is most important. But, because I love you, here are the boundaries. We in the Western world mistake love as being simply an emotion. However, love is also choosing the best and expecting the best from those we love. Children need not only the emotional aspects of love, but parents who not only choose the best they can give, but expect children to also give their best. This is the basis of every good relationship.
This kind of relationship between parents and children demands adults teach children to separate emotions from expectations. Children need to understand parents can and will require certain rules, boundaries, and expectations, however they are not directly bound to being loved. When I teach about the four steps of discipline I always stress the last step. These steps are 1) Discuss the broken rule, what children can do to avoid breaking it next time. 2) Discuss the before rule breaking consequences. 3) Apply the consequences. 4) Do something to reestablishes the relationship. This last step is the real difference between true discipline based in unconditional love and average disciplinary methods. This method places the relationship between parent and child first.
Many parents make the mistake of thinking making children feel bad will help them learn to make better chouces next time. But, it actually hindrrs children from making good choices. Children make good choices when they are taught what good choices are and how to recognize them. Then they need the confidence and self assurance to choose to do the right thing. Children who are made to feel badly about making mistakes or doing wrong are hindered in both areas. When we feel badly we often can not clearly learn the lessons mistakes teach. Also, feelung bad undermines both confidence and self assurance.
Ultimately children need to trust the love of their parents to develop the confidence and assurance to make good decisions. It is the relationship which is the foundation of discipline. Discipline without love is tyranny. Discipline within the bounds of conditional love is undermining the very thing parents are trying to build. Here are two tips to building your relationship.
Be in the moment-When you and your child are together be there in mind, body, and spirit. Give them your undivided attention. Listen to not only what they say take the time to connect with them on an emotional level.
Remember your children are people too.- Sometimes we adults forget what it was like to be a child. Learning new things all the time. Wanting to grow up and be like the superhero or supermodel. Wanting to be liked by peers and adults, and being afraid to disappoint our parents and get in trouble. People say to me kids are not like they were when we were kids. I say kids have not changed parents and parenting has. We spend less time with our families. The average child in the U.S. spend less than 34 hours a week with their parents (19, Mom, 12 Dad, Pew Research, 2013) Most of that time is not spent in relationship building, but transport, instruction, and daily chores. Children need connections like any other person. I believe a parent who keeps in mind the priority needs to be wholly on buildingrelationships; will not miss the target. Instead they will hit the bullseye with dead on accuracy!
Believe in Parenting