The Secrets of Unconditional Love
THE BEST LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL
“You never say you love me,” complained the wife.
Her husband replied, “I said it ten years ago when I proposed. If I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know!” That’s a perfect example of the wrong way to express love for your partner—or your child.
Although few of us would be so brusque when asked directly, many parents take the attitude, “Of course my kids know I love them. Don’t I feed them, protect them, and teach them right from wrong?” Well, even if they “know” intellectually how you feel, nothing replaces actually hearing it—or feeling it through a gentle touch, a spontaneous compliment, or that special glow in your face when they enter the room. Are you giving them all of that regularly—plus assurances that nothing they do, or fail to do, will ever make you stop loving them?
That last point is hard for many parents. Sure, they’d never think of rejecting their children outright, but in the children’s eyes at least, they regularly hint at the possibility. Are you guilty of any of the following habits?
- Asking, “Is that the best you could do?,” especially in cases of excellent-but-not-quite-perfect results such as a 98% grade.
- Snapping, “Don’t bother me, I’m busy,” without even turning your head to look at the child who enters while you’re hurrying to clean up.
- “Listening” to your kids out of the corner of your eye and ear, while continuing to work on something else.
- Always letting the phone or email alert take precedence over continuing a conversation with your child.
- Expressing annoyance in harsh, “you-focused” messages: “You are such a slob!” instead of “I get so upset when I find a mess like this.”
- Saying, “Don’t you ever let me hear of you doing this or that.”
- “I’m ashamed of you for not always getting everything exactly right.”
- “You rate low on my scale of things that deserve attention.”
- “There are things you could do that would be completely unforgivable.”
Results: children who feel they have to earn their parents’ love, who constantly fear slipping up—and who don’t dare tell their parents, who should be their primary supporters, if they do “goof up” big time or are facing serious peer pressure to go the wrong direction.
Seriously, do you want to do that to your kids?
It may be you’ve ingrained such toxic habits unconsciously and now despair of being able to change. Don’t—repeat, don’t—go “conditional love” on yourself by beating yourself up for it. Instead, start practicing these little habits daily:
- Commending pleasure in a job without dissecting the results.
- Stopping what you’re doing, and making eye contact, whenever your kids want to talk to you. (If you really can’t put down what you’re doing, at least take time to say definitely that you’ll be with them in five minutes.)
- Letting the voice mail take a message—or turning off the phone completely—when you have a serious in-person conversation going.
- Giving spontaneous hugs.
- Making it clear your kids can always talk to you about anything.
- Saying things like, “You’re a great kid” or “I’m so blessed to have you” or—yes—“I love you.” Go ahead, try it: it’s easy!