Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Love, a Parent's Most Powerful Ally

Love and Parents

It is remarkable how little love is discussed in parenting literature. Isn’t love at the center of it all? Conception is an act of love and waiting patiently for nine months and preparing for the arrival of the baby is inspired by love. Adjusting your schedule to accommodate feeding times, soccer practice and dentist appointments expresses love. And, when birthday celebration time, isn’t love the primal emotion parents feel well up inside when they hold their birthday boy or girl in their arms?

Love is Elusive

Books and blogs about infant and child care speak about diapers and discipline and all types of ailments, but they do not discuss love. Volumes have been written about child psychology and ways to rear children, touching on all kinds of practical ways to solve parenting problems – however, they hardly touch on the crucial role love plays in healthy parent-child-relationships.

     It is not as if the authors are loveless or are not aware of love. The reason love is not mentioned commensurate to its importance is because love is hard to put into words. Unlike discipline, chore schedules and consistency, to name just a few common child rearing issues, love does not lend itself well for statements of a general nature. Love is a personal thing; it touches on something vulnerable inside. In addition, love, in its expression, is often mixed with personal thoughts and behaviors that may have nothing to do with child rearing. It is really hard to figure out. And yet, the fact remains that love is the heart of the parent-child relationship; love is what brought and keeps the two together.

Love: Source of Inspiration

As long as love remains an abstract, spiritual quality that is praised and held high, it is too remote to be of practical help. Love needs to get arms and legs, it requires hands and feet when it comes to applying it in daily life with kids. Thankfully, love, like a diamond, has multiple facets that lend themselves more easily to application. While Love, capital L, may be beyond the reach of an average parent on an average day, some of its aspects can work wonders if called upon and applied: understanding, tolerance, receptiveness, acceptance, encouragement, harmony, to name just a few. Let's have a look at two examples that show how an aspect of love can be a source of inspiration.

Examples of Love Put to Use

  • Baby Madilyn, 10 months old, and her dad are in the supermarket. She is in the cart while daddy is bent over the shopping list. Madilyn does not look happy and she squirms and snivels. Dad tries to soothe her to no avail and he is getting more and more frustrated. He really needs to get this shopping done and he can't concentrate with her twisting and whimpering like that. He feels like putting a tomato in her mouth to shut her up! Then he remembers to take a step back inwardly and he observes himself in this situation. He thinks back to how filled with love he was this morning when he walked into the nursery and found Maddi sound asleep in her crib. He takes her out of the shopping cart and focuses his attention exclusively on her. He matches this action with an attitude of acceptance and accessibility. His love for his daughter expresses, right then and there, in his acceptance of Maddi, clearly unhappy, and in his availability to her. Madilyn senses this change in her dad and after a short while she calms down and together they are able to complete their shopping without further interruptions. 

     Dad’s insight in himself enables him to be the director of his own actions: he consciously chooses love (acceptance and accessibility) as the starting point for his communication with his daughter. His newly chosen attitude and action successfully interrupt the cycle of irritation and despair that was set in motion earlier, and both parent and child benefit  as they move into a different place together.

  • When mom kisses her son goodbye and leaves him at grandma who has agreed to babysit,  Danny, 5, wants another kiss, and then another, and another. When she’s put on her coat at the front door he again wants a kiss. After a kiss and a warm hug, mom refers him to grandma. That’s when the tears come. He wants to go with her to the car and he doesn’t  listen to grandma who asks him gently to stay inside. Mom is getting desperate. She needs to get to her dental appointment. She starts doubting if leaving him with grandma was such a good idea after all. But immediately she realizes that the dentist’s office is no place for a five-year-old when she herself is undergoing treatment. She would just get very irritated and annoyed with him. Almost at her wit's end, she remembers the love she feels for Danny and the need he has for consistency and clarity. She takes a step back inwardly and focuses her attention entirely on her love for him and on his need to have things be clear cut. She squats down so her eyes are on his level and speaks to him gently: “Danny, I think you are a terrific boy. You’re mommy’s special guy. When I get back and grandma will tell me you went inside with her quietly after waving goodbye, I’ll have a surprise for you! (She’s thinking of the box full of little gadgets that the dentist keeps ready for his little patients.) But now I really have to go. Goodbye, sweetheart, see you in a little while!”
     This mother, inspired by the love she feels for her son, is able to stay in charge of the situation and not let herself be torn by doubts. Using a loving but firm tone of voice she clearly draws a line and describes the specific behavior she expects of him.

Love: a Powerful Ally

These examples show the directive influence love plays in these communications when it has been adopted as a starting point and then expressed in a way that fits the situation. Love is a powerful source, a source that any parent can draw from when needed. The more love's facets are used in this practical way, the more accessible love becomes.

     When love is put to use in daily life with kids, it is no longer just an abstract emotion, a soft fuzzy feeling. Consciously chosen, love is a wonderful source of inspiration for a new attitude and a new action in your communication with kids. It becomes a parent's powerful ally. Even though you might not feel lovey-dovey when your kids' behavior is driving you up the wall, you may be assured that, in times of need, you can draw on some of the more practical aspects of love in order to constructively direct your interaction with your kids.

     If you are facing a recurring problem in the relationship with one of your kids, do take some quiet time and think the issue through. Which aspect of love would be most helpful in this situation?  In case you need any help getting a handle on a specific issue, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and ask for specific input.

To read more about the spiritual side of parenting, I can recommend the following articles on Parents Are ImportantMindful ParentingHow to Counter Negative Thinking, and Parents and Meditation.

This article was adapted for Notes on Parenting 
from a blog post on the author's personal blog
My Kids Grow and So Do I
Images courtesy of photostock at

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