***Have you witnessed the smile on your child’s face after jumping in muddy puddles with you?
***Have you seen the sparkle in the eyes in letting him get all messy with paint and colours all over him and less on paper?
***Have you felt the warmth when you gently hug and cuddle them?
If the answers to most of these questions is “Yes”, then you are enjoying the most blissful phase of your child’s life to the fullest, which will leave untold memories in both yours and his life. Loving and living life from the perspective of a child is indeed very tough, but when they grow and our houses will be left with still memories, all of it will make complete sense and unfold the beauty of creating them in the first place. The key to successful parenting – Unconditional love.
A mother to a toddler herself, when questioned by her mother, “What is the most amazing memory from your childhood?” replied, ” It is the way we all sat and ate dinner together, the cake that you baked on my birthday with love, the surprise drives that dad would take us on a Sunday to make us have fun, the way you let us play in the rain occasionally to enjoy the gift of nature”.
As parents, we are here to raise the child’s heart and not just the behavior. In today’s busy schedules where everyone is fighting for the survival of the fittest, the children are missing out on the experiences that are the very essence of childhood. This innocence in thinking, this simplicity in life, this grit in taking up challenges, this warmth in expressing love, this charm and zest in the smile, this confidence in life as a journey will only fade with time if not nurtured in the right direction. This is not to challenge our parenting skills, but to reflect and enhance this journey to make it effective and a safe place for our children to land.
As stated in one of his articles, the spiritual master Sadhguru speaks about 10 things that help children flourish. One of things mentioned include “Giving children true love”, which indicates the importance of choosing to be unpopular and doing the best for the children. The parents hold the most important place in any child’s life and this position can lay a strong or a weak foundation for their future success and relationships depending upon the experiences provided during the formative years of their life.
Research has shown that the most vital element to grow emotionally strong, healthy, happier and resilient children is attachment and connection. Parents, caregivers, teachers who directly influence the development of children cannot be replaced with technology, peers or any stranger. As the first point of contact in a child’s life the way we understand the language, the expressions, the broken words of our children and the way we respond to them is very crucial to their optimum growth.
As mentioned in Daniel Siegel’s and Tina Payne Brysons’s book “The Whole-Brain child”, “how our kids make sense of their young lives is not only about what happens to them but also about how their parents, teachers, and other caregivers respond”. The security and unconditional acceptance provided to the children when their brains are still developing will wire their thought processes accordingly.
Let us consider a situation here. If you are in a supermarket and a child has a serious meltdown about buying a toy, what would be your ideal reaction? As a parent, it is intrinsic to get upset and show it by yelling or spanking at that moment. This is because we take their behaviour too personally and believe it to be a direct indication of our parenting skills. Depending upon the age of the child, the most appropriate reaction would be to either pull the child out of the situation to a calm spot and avoid him of any shameful reactions. We could also get down to a child’s eye level and say phrases like,” I know it is tough for you to let go that toy and I am there to hear you”, or “I understand that you really want that toy as it looks attractive but maybe we can talk about it later and decide if we really need it”.
You will be surprised as to how validating the feeling will be so effective in letting the child deal with the emotion. This kind of compassionate response is only possible for a person who is connected to the child unconditionally and needs patience. Acceptance, empathy, respect, humbleness towards our children is not a trend but it is the dire need to make positive individuals who not only survive but thrive in life.
The same is reiterated by Alfie Kohn in his article “Why lots of love (motivation) isn’t enough” where he emphasises the distinction between loving children for what they do and loving them for who they are. He says that the former is conditional love where the child is expressed love for acting in ways we deem appropriate and the latter is unconditional; and it is this latter according to the growing body of research that the children really need from their parents and teachers. This clearly suggests that children need an environment where they are allowed to blossom and celebrate their uniqueness. They need a safe place, a strong shoulder, a loving relation to be able to do so.
Children growing with unconditional love and acceptance also develop high self-esteem and positive self-image, in contrast to those growing in fear and insecurities. The seeds we sow today towards this relation with our children will bear priceless fruits in future which will enable our children to face the real-world challenges. Too much of love, listening to our children’s feelings, respecting their emotions does not spoil them but empowers them to prosper and emulate the same in their future relationships.
Also suggested by Siegel in his book, “As children develop, their brains “mirror” their parent’s brain.” We need to make sure we are good epitomes of unconditional love and change the traditional way of being strict and authoritarian towards our children. This needs hard work, spending quality time with them, dealing with love and patience with them even during the meltdowns and learning times.
Alfie Kohn blogs – http://www.alfiekohn.org/blogs/lots-of-love/
The Whole Brain Child – Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
Isha Foundation’s article – http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/lifestyle/relationships/10-tips-on-good-parenting/