It cannot be written down – the emotion we attach to our children! Once children step into our lives, every other relationship we deemed we cannot live without takes the second place. In most other relationships, we get along the tide. But as parents, we create the waves! And as our little children begin to get along the tides we create for them, how quick they can rise above, every time after a heavy blow is about the reassurance the feeling of our love gives them.
From 1st to 30th April, I will be writing one post a day on The Things that really matter to Children. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the complete list of posts in the series.
L for Love: What ultimately matters to Children!
Infants are cuteness overloaded and no matter how difficult it got to recover from the delivery, no matter what struggles you went through for the paternity leave and no matter how many times they wet the diaper, there would never be a displeasure in our hearts to attend to them. When they begin toddlerhood, it is yet another heart-filling phase to watch them do all that we had been waiting for – walking, running, giggling….! With every passing by stage, they make the core of our life and living.
While we believe we love our children no matter what, on the other hand, handling children with love is one of the common remedies spoken of for children’s unpleasant emotional and psychological behaviour. Lack of love from parents is pointed out as one of the reasons of children’s addiction to screens or misbehaviour.
How do we understand love with your children?
Though love exists at the foundation of our bonding with our children, have you ever realized a gap that keeps building between you and your children as years go by? By the time they reach teenage, we don’t cuddle them as much as we did them as a baby. By the time they reach adulthood, we aren’t devoted to them as much as we were years ago. What changes between infanthood and adulthood?
I remember being a doting mom until my boy was around two and a little more than two. Until then it was an adorable stage. Post that, with tantrums beginning and with his own like and dislikes springing up, I could see the mother in me undergoing gradual changes to become a slightly tough mom. Of course, nagging holds a lot of love underneath, but I could see how love expressed in not-a-pleasant way reach children differently.
As adults, our worlds cannot be free of stress, worries, frustrations, anger, tiredness, disappointments, challenges or anxieties. When parents interact everyday with children whose worlds are different, there can be some level of their stress and anxieties that are projected to our children. A very sensitive child can perceive these emotions as being ‘unloved’. I particularly mention a very sensitive child because children (and even adults) can have varying degrees of emotional intelligence. Among siblings raised under the same circumstances, the sensitive one may react very emotionally to their parents’ fights while the other may brush it off knowing it is going to be alright the next day.
As we are reading this, let’s pause for a moment and try to connect the dots with our child. First of all, let’s take a moment to understand if our child is a sensitive one with us or a easy-go-lucky kind. (I mention ‘with us’ because a child’s relation with the mom can be different from that with the dad). Let’s also understand that most children below 7 years are still working on their emotional intelligence, so there is going to be only a thin line between a sensitive child and a not-so-sensitive child.
Next, let’s bring a scene of an unpleasant thing our child does, say throwing a tantrum at the toy shop or spilling milk on the floor or breaking something precious – not a one-time event but a frequent or routine event. How do we react to the situation? What emotion do we project to our children? Do we express our anger and frustration on them? Do we make them feel guilty for what they did? Do we reinforce that they are never going to do anything right? Do we empathize with them, for they are after all kids? Do we empathize but make it clear why and how not to repeat the mistake?
How do our children respond to our reaction? Do they get afraid? Do they backfire at us in anger? Do they feel guilty and remain quiet? Do they feel guilty and express their sorry? Do they ignore what’s happening to run away?
By now, you would know what I want you to see between you and your child. But it’s not to judge yourself about how you are parenting. Not at all!
We are humans after all, and trying to keep our children aloof from our emotions doesn’t sign building a strong family to me. When children understand our emotions and difficulties, we are creating a family in which everyone – be a child or an adult – is accepted for whoever they are. When children understand our emotions and difficulties, they are beginning to think beyond themselves. When children understand our emotions and difficulties, they are beginning to get a better understanding of humanity. If you read my F for Family time post, you would know why I say family must give a child the foundation to deal with everything that is nice and unpleasant.
Children perceive our love through our involvement with them and not necessarily when we are always polite, calm, nice, kind and smiling to them. Even though the child knows that her mom is going to yell at her for something wrong she did, when she chooses to talk about it to the mom, that is where the trust and reassurance the child has built upon the parent shows.
To a child, love is about accepting and acknowledging their shortcomings. Scolding a child for accidentally spilling milk will not be felt as being unloved by the child. But scolding a child for writing ‘d’ instead of ‘b’ will be felt heavily by the child because the child knows it is not an accident and that he/she is disliked by the parent for something terribly wrong with him/her.
To a child, love is about both giving and receiving. As parents most often we feel it is our duty to keep our children comfortable at the cost of any sacrifice we do from our part. But, children feel enormously loved when they take turns to sacrifice. When once I planned to skip my dinner because the dosa batter was over, my son offered to share half of his dosas and the joy he felt in ‘giving his love’ to me was very precious to him.
At the end of the day as they rest on the bed, when they are confident that they have a parent who can listen to their deepest fears of the day; when they are happy to make you fall asleep with their eventful stories, and when they are eager to know that you have something to tell them, you know that they are feeling loved. For, at the end of the day, that’s what ultimately matters to children – love!
List of posts in the Series