Parenting – What is Unconditional Love and How Does it Work?
At its best, parenthood calls for an ability to love unconditionally. To love a child regardless of what he or she says or does takes maturity, selflessness and commitment. When you dedicate yourself to this style of parenting, you are providing an experience that will have long-lasting positive effects on the entire family. But conscientious parenting is hard, surprisingly hard. It requires a tremendous amount of generosity, dedication, and a willingness to give of yourself, at times, when you would really rather not.
What is unconditional love and how does it work? Unconditional love means affection is not based on outside circumstances. It’s never threatened or taken away. It’s not used as leverage or to manipulate.
Loving unconditionally isn’t about being permissive, nor does it mean approving of everything children do. It just means that whatever they do, even when you disapprove or get angry, kids know the issue is never about whether or not they’re loved. Love is both a spoken and unspoken certainty. When you’re able to love in this way, kids learn to feel good and special. What’s more, feeling loveable then becomes rooted into your child’s personality.
For the most part, unconditional love is unique between parents and children. Experience teaches that husbands and wives, friends and lovers do things to cause them to stop loving one another. They divorce, stop speaking, and break up fairly frequently. But if parents have the ability, the love between them and their children can survive acts of disloyalty, disrespect, or periods of neglect and even abuse. The ability of parents and children to forgive one another is truly remarkable but not absolute.
Despite the desire to love your children unconditionally, you may find yourself struggling to do so. Mothers and fathers, who grew up in an inconsistent and unreliable atmosphere themselves, often slip into creating a similar pattern with their own children, regardless of their intention to do otherwise.
Withdrawing love does often get kids to do what they’re told. However, when children cooperate because they fear being shamed or rejected, they’re doing so for the wrong reasons. Rather than acting out of respect for themselves and others, they’re afraid of being emotionally abandoned. This type of “cooperation” can lead to problems because it causes children to doubt their own self-worth.
Find a New Perspective
If loving unconditionally doesn’t come naturally, all is not lost. Rather than ignoring this problem, it’s a good idea to think more about it. Write down your concerns, talk about them with your partner, or share your thoughts with a friend. Instead of delegating your own childhood into the background, become more curious about how you grew up. The ways in which anger and love were expressed, when you were little, will influence the ways you’ll resolve conflicts and express your love as an adult.
The loss of parental love is life-defining. The devastating consequences are why it’s so important for mothers and fathers to manage their frustrations and disappointments without withdrawing affection or respect. Winning this internal battle and refusing to use love as a weapon helps children feel good about themselves – which is really what unconditional love is all about.