When we love someone unconditionally, such as a child, we don't set conditions to that love. We don't tell them, "I love you but..." Unconditional love means that you accept your child for who they are and and you love them, no matter if who they are doesn't fulfill your dreams or expectations.
Even when a child is being difficult, parenting can be hard as well, but he or she should still be able to feel your unconditional love for them. While you may always have expectations of how you want your children to behave or what you want for their future, those expectations should never be a condition for your love.
There are five habits that you can develop to help you love your child unconditionally.
- Learn to appreciate their traits - While you may see their stubbornness as a weakness, it can also be seen as a strength because they are a display of persistence. Although this trait can be difficult to live with at times, you can help your child develop it into an asset and teach your him or her to control it, instead of letting it control them.
- Let go of disappointment - If there is something about your child that you are disappointed in, your child will sense that and feel as if they are not good enough for you. However, if you acknowledge those feelings to yourself and grieve them, you can then let them go so they don't affect the relationship you have with your child.
- Use your child's point of view to understand their “faults” - Most misbehavior is a signal from your child asking for help or communicating something. Children don't have the vocabulary to express what they feel and they often act out how they feel. There is almost always a reason for their misbehavior. Perhaps they are upset or they have an unmet need. Instead of focusing on the behavior, focus on their unmet need or the reason they might be upset. If you do that, you will end up seeing changes in your child.
Manage behavior with empathy - Let your child know that you understand why they behaved in a certain manner, but also, let them know you don't like how they behaved and emphasize the rules you've set for their behavior. For example: Mom: "I understand that your are angry but your can't hit other children. Hitting is not acceptable" Child: Do you love me? Mom:" Yes, I love you very much. I just don't like that behavior." Listen to your child as they communicate and show affection. Be consistent with rules and consequences.
- While you are practicing these habits, it is vital that you manage your own anger. Be the example for your child by keeping your cool during times of stress, especially if they are the ones causing it. You are the most important role model for your children. Taking responsibility for your behavior will help them to gradually become independent and responsible for their own actions.
These habits will bring you and your child closer and for the rest of his life, he will know that he's more than enough, and loved, exactly as he is. Remember, love your child unconditionally, no matter what, and not just when they are well- behaved. If you feel that your anger and frustration are interfering with your parenting, we can help you identify effective strategies to better express your unconditional love to your children every day. Click here to learn how an experienced New York City clinical psychologist can help you. Call 347-781- 4614 to set up a consultation.