Love with Understanding


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


All parents indicate that they love their child/children. Yet in the process of raising children tension and disappointment can strain the bond between even the most dedicated of parents and their children. This article is an attempt to give some pointers on how a parent can feel, maintain, and express love to their child/children.

We all have a belief about others and why they do what they do. This "belief system" allows us to determine how we react/act when we observe other's behavior. In our culture we tend to classify others as good or bad, evil or saintly. This classifications work for us because we tend to avoid those whose behavior is "bad" and seek the friendship of those who we see as "good."

The problem with applying this belief system to children is that children specialize in immature or "bad" behavior. If we try to react to them like we do adults who are immature or "bad" we do things that are not helpful.

We need to recognize that our children are immature and developing. We must see them as evolving into a highly capable adult. Just as an acorn becomes a great oak tree and not a squash a child must be seen as automatically noble. Parents are the gardeners helping the child become what they already are.

Let me illustrate the difference a belief system makes. Little Johnny gets mad because he can't get his way and tries to hit his parent. His parent classifies him as "bad" and says, "You're a bad boy, don't you ever do that again!" Johnny's not bad. He is just immature. But now he thinks that his parent thinks he is bad. He may even jump to the conclusion that his parent does not love him because "bad" things are not capable of being loved.

Little Ronnie gets mad because he can't get his way and tries to hit his parent. His parent classifies him as immature and says, "You must be upset. Let me help you get your body under control. I'm going to keep you right here by my side until you can calm down." Ronnie's not bad. He is just immature and needs to grow to a higher level. This parent has a belief in the son's capacity to grow to a higher level. Ronnie is learning that even though he is out of control, his parent has faith in his capacity to solve problems more maturely in the future. Ronnie is still frustrated but he knows that he is loved and ok.

Genuine love requires that the parent gain the capacity to look beyond the here and now. A child who does something wrong (immature) is not permanently damaged goods but rather making unwise decisions. Loving parents try to figure out why this noble spirit feels he/she must behave so crudely or immaturely.

Loving parents are always observing their child and then asking themselves questions to determine how best to help their evolving child. Here are some questions they may ask themselves.

  Does the child need more experience? (Only experience can teach some of life's lessons.)

  Does the child need more responsibility? (Indulged or cared for children behave immaturely when the parent is not serving them.)

  Does the child need to learn to use language rather than emotion to solve problems? (If children cannot use language to express themselves and their feelings they cannot learn to use the higher brain. Instead they will use the lower brain or "reptilian" brain to react rather than act.)

  Does the child have an organic problem? (Some misbehavior can be traced to problems with diet, body mechanics, or chemistry. Only a good medical workup can diagnose these problems.)

  Is the child learning to push the parent's buttons to get his/her way? (When the parent gets angry the child recognizes the parent's inability to help them and the child tries to control their world without the parent's help.)

  What is the child trying to get? (Children need order and most deviant behavior has a purpose. When that purpose is discovered the parent can help the child find more appropriate ways to get what they want.)

Seeing the child in a positive light and helping rather than getting upset does not feel natural at first. But with practice these loving approaches will pay off in dividends of love and respect returned. Condemning is easier then loving and sometimes more fun. But in the long run loving not only lowers blood pressure, it makes the process of parenting an enjoyable journey.