A parent’s love gives a child the hope and energy to grow. Nothing is as important for human development as love. This is true not only in the first months of life but also into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Sometimes parents focus most of their parenting energy on correcting and disciplining their children. These activities can take over the relationship between parent and child. Unfortunately, when a child does not feel loved, he or she is more likely to misbehave. A child who is loved is more likely to develop into a healthy, caring adult.


[Editor’s note: this is part two of a six-part series offered by Sonya McDaniel, OSU Extension Educator.]
 
A parent’s love gives a child the hope and energy to grow. Nothing is as important for human development as love. This is true not only in the first months of life but also into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Sometimes parents focus most of their parenting energy on correcting and disciplining their children. These activities can take over the relationship between parent and child. Unfortunately, when a child does not feel loved, he or she is more likely to misbehave. A child who is loved is more likely to develop into a healthy, caring adult.
Make time for love. If we don’t plan to take time for our children we may be bothered by the demands they make on us. Effective parents set aside some things in their lives to make time for their children. They use some of the time to do fun things with their children such as playing, talking, cooking and telling stories. They also expect to be interrupted in their daily activities to help and be with their children.
A parent who is effective at loving, tries to prevent problems. For example, a wise parent childproofs the house in order to minimize the need for scolding. A loving parent notices when a child is hungry or tired and helps them adapt — maybe by providing a snack or some peaceful time together. Rather than wait until a child is doing something wrong and then getting mad, the effective parent helps a child have many fun and safe experiences. The effective parent notices the good things the child does and communicates affection to the child.
Loving involves listening and understanding. While it is true that parents often know much more about many things than their children, it is only when we listen patiently and with compassion that children discover that their feelings and ideas matter to others. Understanding is so important (and so difficult for most of us).
Effective loving also involves customizing messages of love for each child. Children like to be loved in different ways. Some like to be shown love; some like to be told; some like to be hugged.
When a person takes time to be with you, it sends a very powerful message — You are important to me. When a person has fun with you, it sends another powerful message — I enjoy being with you. Those are very important messages. It is very important to spend enjoyable time with children.
Effective time together can come in either small or large doses. When a child does something as simple as asking a parent a question, the parent can look at the child and give a serious answer. That may only take a minute but it sends an important message to the child — What you say is important to me. There are many small ways in which parents can send messages of love to children.
Many things that we do with children take more than a minute. It takes some time to take a walk, go the park, read a book together or work on a craft project together. It can help us as parents if we are prepared to dedicate blocks of time to our children. Nothing we do is any more important than being a part of their lives. When a child asks for some of our time, we can think of it as an unwelcome interruption or an invitation to be involved in the child’s life. Think of interruptions as invitations to be a part of a family member’s life.
Have you ever had anyone listen to your pain and seem to really understand what you felt? Did that person say just the right thing to show that she or he understood and cared how you felt? That is a powerful experience. Unfortunately, it is also quite rare. When people have difficulties we often give them advice such as, “What you need to do is ...”
Giving advice does not show understanding. It tends to rush people on to a solution. There is an interesting contradiction about giving advice to people in pain, when we try to drag people from their pain, they tend to hold on to it more stubbornly. When we bring compassion and understanding to their pain, they are more likely to relax and get ready to move on. Understanding is very healing.
Sometimes one child may be especially difficult. It may be because of a sensitive temperament or it may be that the child is merely different from the parent. The effective parent tries to find ways to help each child individually, even if the child is difficult.
Love is more than a feeling; there are times when we don’t feel very loving toward our children. Love is a commitment to be with, understand and support the development of another human being. Love makes all the difference.
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Source: www.arfamilies.org   - University of Arkansas Extension Service
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Oklahoma State University, US Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.