by Shirley King
By definition, unconditional love means love which is not subjected to conditions or limitations. For a parent, this means loving the child no matter what he or she does. Parents can dislike the child’s behavior, but still feel and convey their love.
Unconditional love is absolutely necessary for every growing and developing child.
This love without restrictions is important in the development of a child’s self-concept and self-esteem. A good part of self-esteem is the feeling of “I am lovable.” Initially in a child’s life, this quality of lovableness comes from the parents, relatives and daycare providers. The child is then able to accept herself and feel self-respect and self-esteem. A child who feels good about herself has no need to misbehave to find her place in life. A child who feels better will behave better.
Unconditional love does not infer acceptance of misbehavior. Psychologist James Read, Ph.D. says, “Unconditional love of the child as a person is vital, and so is the setting of limits and teaching appropriate boundaries.” Parents can let the child know, “I don’t like what you did, and I still love you.” Parents can use logical and natural consequences, encouragements, reflective listening, ‘I’ messages, etc. to reduce misbehavior while at the same time communicating unconditional love. It can be done.
Parents need to monitor their own thinking about their children. Thoughts such as “Oh, I can’t stand it when he does that! He’s a bad boy!” lead to angry feelings and punitive actions toward the child.
When parents keep their thoughts more along the lines of “I love this child of mine, and I need to set up a consequence here.” It works wonders for the parent-child relationship. As my friend Linda, a mother of four boys says, “It’s the love that gets you through.”
An excellent way for parents to express unconditional love is by giving their children focused attention every day. Focused attention is simply spending time with our children. Being with our kids, doing what they want to do, is love. Sit and play Candyland or chess with her and she will feel loved. If parents are willing to give their children attention and time together, they will feel self-confident and loved.
Kathryn Kvols writer in Redirecting Children’s Behavior: “Unconditional love is essential in raising self-confident children that love themselves and the world in which we live. They need to feel there is nothing they have to do, like keep their rooms clean to earn our love.” Just by being who they are, our children are worthy of our unconditional love.