It’s very simple advice, and most parents go the other way: Do not use love as a bargaining chip.
Do not withhold love when children do wrong, and do not save hugs for when they do right.
Seems easy enough, but we inadvertently re-enact our own upbringing.
What does it look like when we use love for pavlovian conditioning?
Your child is screaming inside the supermarket. You tell them to shut up, your face all scrunched up.
Everybody has seen this scene happen before. The child has no other means of expression pain or its emotions, and it resorts to shouting. Especially if that is the only way it gets a reaction!
Parents will be terrified of inconveniencing other shoppers, judging stares and causing a stir; logical or not, the child will learn for life that expressing itself is dangerous and will be met with anger.
The grades are in, and your child did well. You hug them and tell them how proud you are of them.
You see some bad grades, and your expression changes. You stand up, distance yourself from your child, and tell them how disappointed you are.
I can imagine some reading this, thinking that its unrealistic to expect parents to adjust their emotional expression. But it is crucial. Grades do not measure intelligence or respect, and your body language can cut much deeper than your words.
Your voice might not be cussing, but your withdrawal of affection is.
“But I don’t want to reward them for their behaviour! They need to know this is not ok!”
Love should never be a reward, it should be a given.
Raising kids used to be easier, but so was the world. There were less expectations and pressure on the children. Now, in order to survive the world, they will feel doomed if they do not believe in themselves. Feelings of abandonment can linger far into adulthood, and many feel too embarrassed to even admit how deeply their upbringing has hurt them!
‘If children do not learn to love themselves from their parents, they will never be able to learn this.’
I was 11 when I dragged my mother to a lecture by philosopher Richard David Precht. His words cut deep, and my mother with her own problematic upbringing agreed with the study.
Decades later, I now disagree. It may be hard, but definitely not impossible.
What do you think? Do you have your own difficult experiences, but mostly I want to know:
Do you agree with this last quote? Maybe self-love won’t come as instinctive to us as to children of healthy upbringings, but I refuse the finality and powerlessness it implies. What do you think?