Sara has been very busy with the children today. She has played in the floor with her toddler, laughing, making memories. They made a car out of a cardboard box in between nursing and caring for her infant as well. The children are well taken care of and happy, but the house... Well the mess from the day's play is lying around when her husband, John, gets home. John shoots her a look of disapproval that makes her heart sink. Hasn't she been good enough, today? She goes over to connect with a hug, and he withdrawals from her. Feeling the sting of rejection, she immediately starts picking up the mess. John goes to take a shower. When he gets out, the mess is picked up, and the house looks good. He nods and gives his wife a loving hug. "This looks much better. Thank you."
What sort of feelings did this story bring up for you? How did it leave you feeling about John? About Sara? What can you deduce about their relationship from this story?
The question was posed on my Facebook page recently, "If he doesn't pick up his toys, should I give him a hug as a reward?!"
Friends, love is not a reward. Hugs, attention, affection, kind words - these are not rewards to be dangled in front of a child, only given when he performs to our liking. These are a child's lifeline. They should be given without condition, without hesitation. Always.
We've developed this rather strange idea that loving children too much is bad for them, but if we offer just enough love at the right times, they will jump through hoops to get it. And they probably will, but they shouldn't have to. Withholding love and affection most certainly works to control a child because this is very real need, and they must get it met in whatever way they can, but take a moment to stop and feel the sadness that the child feels - the rejection, the feeling of needing to get it right before being worthy of love and affection.
I imagine Sara feeling a sense of relief, and even loved, once John gave her his affection and approval. I also imagine there is emotional instability and pain.
Please don't make children earn your affection. As Dr. Gordon Neufeld said, "If children want attention, then why on earth wouldn't we give it to them?"
Take a moment to watch this video in which Dr. Neufeld explains why children need to be able to rest in our love.
Too much love won't spoil. Kindness doesn't provoke poor behavior. Respect doesn't invite disrespect. This is backwards thinking which has caused us to feel trapped into being too harsh for too long. Generations of children are still searching and longing for unconditional love.
Let's make a change.