Loving Them Consistently, Just As They Are

This post was scheduled for inclusion in the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted at Parenting Gently. All week, June 27 – July 1, we will be featuring articles and posts about alternatives to punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.

We all love our children; I can’t think of any parent who would say otherwise. But to provide consistent and loving care goes deeper then the simple “I love you’s” passed so often, yet felt so lightly. Rather, it takes loving your child no matter what they are presenting to you at the time. It goes deeper than the image of the person that stands before us, it means seeing them as they really are at their core.

But what about those moments when a child is “hard to love”? Our children fuss, they cry, they fight our decisions, and they can always manage to whine at the wrong time. But does this make them harder to love, or just harder for us to act from a place of loving kindness?

Do we just love them when they make us feel good? Do we use them as a reason to feel better for our own personal experience? Should we then turn on them in an unloving way if we can’t control them to take care of our needs? Of course not.

Children play, they have fun and then, sometimes, something happens which makes them feel bad. It could be an interaction, something they thought or a feeling they felt. Then they react to how far away from their playful self (who they love to be) they’ve become. When they present us with off behavior, therefore, it’s vital to stop ourselves in our tracks and remember this isn’t an expression of who our children are; rather it is a reaction from our children to something that has made them feel awful and not themselves. Then we can offer the loving care to help our children feel better, rather than making them feel even less themselves, and less playful, by acting in an unloving way.

Moments of frustration and upset in our children’s lives can become opportunities. They are chances to stop everything and settle into the place of understanding and compassion, which comes from deep within us, not as a reaction to things outside of ourselves. We can then offer our children love and support in what they are going through. We can help them adjust to feel better, either through distraction from the situation, something to laugh about, comfort or just a loving look, hug or smile.

We are no different from our children. We may not have a tantrum on the floor of a grocery store, but isn’t that only because we’ve learned it’s not socially acceptable?

As parents, it is sometimes easy to fall into the trap of seeing our children as just that: children. It often makes them seem like a “thing,” a possession. With that perspective, as our children grow and become older we get confused when our “thing” won’t behave as we want or be who we want them to be anymore. However, when we see our children as individuals, when we love them consistently for who they are, with their own opinions, perspectives, and reactions to the life they live, we get to experience their joys, frustrations, and in-betweens alongside them. We no longer want to control who they are, but allow who they are to shine through.

Loving care, perhaps at its greatest, is to allow our children to be individuals, and have the knowledge that if we are needed, we will be there. If they fall, we’ll pick them up but if they are thriving we will simply stand behind, cheering them on.

Photo Credit: Author


We are pleased to host a guest post today from Christina Fletcher. Christina is an author, blogger and consultant on spiritually aware parenting. Her book, “Who They Really Are: A Guide to Being a Spiritually Aware Parent,” was recently released in March 2011. For more information please check out her website or Facebook page.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

Please join us all week, June 27-July 1, 2011, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. We have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts – new articles will be posted on the following theme days:

June 27 – Practical Tips for Getting Started with Gentle Discipline
June 28 – It’s All About Feelings: Respecting Emotions and Consensual Living
June 29 – A Fork in the Road: Turning Points in Gentle Discipline
June 30 – Gentle Discipline Recipe: Love, Patience, and Cooperation
July 1 – Gentle Discipline Resources

6 Responses to Loving Them Consistently, Just As They Are

  1. Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com  

    Thanks Christina; to me this is all about separating the person from the behaviour but I love how you summed it up with “does this make them harder to love, or just harder for us to act from a place of loving kindness?” It’s a phrase that really resonated with me and I’ll hold it in mind next time I’m struggling to be the parent I strive to be

  2. Lindsay H

    Well put! It’s so much easier for me to react lovingly to my son when I try to get inside his head and remember he’s a real person with real feelings. Our society doesn’t really encourage us to think of kids that way, but for me it definitely helps me be a better parent to look at what he’s feeling and thinking and try to fix the root problem of sadness or frustration and not just the “symptom” of misbehaving.

  3. Cynthia

    Nicely said. I particularly appreciated the differentiation between our children as possessions and as individuals.

  4. Dionna  

    Beautiful – I love the emphasis on finding moments of compassion and understanding, not just “dealing” with whatever the child is presenting. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Becca

    Very lovely.
    I have noticed when my little Peanut is frustrating me it isn’t a behavior or discipline problem, just that mommy needs a break. This is when daddy steps in and I take a walk or go to Starbucks alone for an hour. I come back refreshed and suddenly my Peanut isn’t so trying!

  6. Mrs. Smitty

    “does this make them harder to love, or just harder for us to act from a place of loving kindness?”

    I’m going to have to tattoo this on my forearm.. we’re struggling with toddlerhood right now and I miss the days of ages 0-1