My Kids Grow and So Do I


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Constructive Communication With Kids Series, part 3: Love

The Starting Point

In part 2 of this series, Constructive Communication With Kids, we looked at several examples that clearly showed the difference a parent can make when he or she consciously chooses a constructive starting point in their communication with kids. We discovered how important insight in yourself and in your child is, and how that skill helps you to direct your own parenting style. Today we will look at the multiple ways in which you can use aspects of love as the perfect starting point from which to communicate with your kids.


It is remarkable how little love is discussed in parenting literature. Isn’t love at the center of it all? Waiting patiently for nine months and preparing for the arrival of the baby is inspired by love. And isn’t love the primal quality parents feel well up inside when they hold their newborn in their arms? Books and blogs about infant and child care speak about diapers and nap-time 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 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. Love is a personal thing. Love touches on something vulnerable. Because of all this, it is hard to make statements about love in general terms. In addition, love, in its expression, is often mixed with personal thoughts and behaviors that may have nothing to do with love. It’s really hard to figure out. And yet, love is the heart of the parent-child relationship and as such forms the perfect source of inspiration for parents in their communication with their children. As long as love remains an abstract, spiritual quality that is praised and held high, it is too remote to help us. Love needs to get arms and legs, it needs to get hands and feet in daily life and communication with kids. Thankfully, love is like a diamond that has multiple facets or aspects that are available for any willing parent to work with, such as understanding, tolerance, receptiveness, acceptance, encouragement, harmony, to name just a few. The following examples show how love, in one of its aspects, can be a source of inspiration for the parent-child communication.

Examples of Love Put to Use

  • Baby Madilyn, 10 months old, and her dad are in the supermarket. She is sitting in the shopping cart while daddy is bent over the shopping list. Madilyn does not look happy and she squirms and snivels in the shopping cart. Dad tries to soothe her to no avail and is getting more and more frustrated. He really needs to get this shopping done and he cannot concentrate with her twisting and whimpering like that. He feels like putting a tomato in her mouth to shut her up. Then he remembers ‘constructive communication’ and takes a step back inwardly. He remembers how filled with love he was when he woke her up this morning. He takes Maddi out of the shopping cart and focuses his attention exclusively on her. He matches this action with an attitude of acceptance and accessibility. Madilyn senses this change and in a few minutes she has calmed 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. Then she remembers the love she feels for Danny. She takes a step back inwardly and focuses her attention entirely on him. She squats down so her eyes are on his level and tells him: “Danny, I think you are a terrific boy. You’re mommy’s special guy. When I get back and grandma tells 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 always has ready for his little patients.) But now I really have to go. Goodbye, sweetheart, see you in a little while!”

     This examples clearly illustrates how the 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 from 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 is used, the more accessible it becomes.

     When love is put to use in daily life with kids, it is no longer just an abstract emotion, a soft fuzzy feeling deep inside. 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 all the time, you may be assured that, in times of need, you can draw on the source of love in order to direct your interaction with your kids in a constructive way.

     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 of looking at a specific issue this way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and ask for help.

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