As the arrival of our first little boy is coming closer and closer, I’m finding myself becoming more and more aware and worried about my weaknesses and how I can be the best possible mother for our little guy and future children. Some of my thoughts have been: Will I be consistent? Will they always know my love is unconditional? Am I patient and tolerant enough? Can I discipline without anger? Will they feel like they can always talk to me about anything? Etc… Amidst these worries, I came across some interview notes I’d written down when I interviewed both my parents and my husband’s parents for one of my classes. The subject was on what principles they used and felt were most successful and beneficial in the raising of their children.
After re-reading through their responses, it seemed to me that every response centered around one thing: love. Showing love in how we treat each other, love in how we discipline, and learning to love through our different opinions.
Implementing Unconditional Love
The love we show our children should be unconditional. Our children should know that no matter what they do to disappoint us, our love for them is unwavering and constant. My husband’s parents said, “Above all, children need to know that they are loved–absolutely, unconditionally, and always. Our children always knew they were loved. They understood that they were precious beyond measure and that nothing was more important to us than their happiness and well-being.” Looking back on my mother’s single parenting days, I believe we as a family came out stronger through some of the tougher times because of our understanding that our mother cared more about us and our happiness than anything else and that our understanding of that love was most important to her.
Teaching Love Through Our Example
As parents, we’re the first image, the first kiss, and the first act of true love that stamps itself on each child brought into our families. We are the first human beings to have a profound impact and example on them and this doesn’t change as they get older. If as parents we want our children to love one another, we must first show them how. We show them by the way we treat each other as equal partners, how we treat and talk about our neighbors and friends, and most importantly by how we act and communicate with our children. My in-laws made it a point to always try and have good communication with their children. They did this by making sure the kids always knew that their ideas were not only respected but valued in the family.
Disciplining With Love
When asked what types of discipline they found most effect in their parenting my mother said, “There is no particular method that is all encompassing for every child but what I learned was that discipline has to come through your love. Find whatever method you feel is best for that particular instance, but make sure that it is motivated by love and not by anger.” When love is replaced with anger during the discipline of a child, abuse, whether it be physical or emotional, can come sneaking in. It is better to calm down and discipline through the guidance of love, than to act out in a moment of anger.
I don’t think parents are perfect in how they discipline their children right from the get-go either. It requires patience and consistency with each child’s differences. Just the other day I was chatting with the lady I nanny for. She has 9 children and another one on the way. I told her how I’ve always admired her parenting and wondered how her kids were always so behaved. I told her some of my worries about how I wouldn’t be consistent or good in my discipline and how she just seems to really get it. She laughed and said, “This has come with MANY years of practice. You should have seen me with my first couple of kids. There were plenty of nights where I put the kids into bed, shut the door, and then sat and cried feeling like I was a failure.” So here’s some advice I want to remember for those nights: Be patient with yourself. You’re human. You make mistakes and you try again. No matter how bad the day was, make sure your kids always go to bed with the knowledge that you love them.
Katie also gives some great tips on discipline in her article: How Do I Get My Kids to Behave?
“Our Love is Stronger Than Our Opinions”
With the combining of our two large families, my mother said that our family adopted a certain type of philosophy which was that, “Our love is stronger than our opinions”. The title of our blog, Double the Batch: a Family Well Blended, couldn’t have described our family any better. Since there are 15 of us, you may have already realized there is a pretty wide range of opinions on things: whether they are political, health related, religious or even in the many different ways we view humor. I think when strong opinions differ in families, it’s easy to turn inward and think our way is the only right way and withhold our love from those who differ from it. Don’t get me wrong, my family is far from perfect. I think we’ve slipped many a time with this. It happens. But the idea of ‘love over opinions’ continues to strengthen our family with time as each family member goes down fluctuating roads of opinions. Our love for each other and the love our parents show us remains the same.
I’ve seen so many families fall apart because of differing opinions or even a single family member ostracized or cut off because of sexual orientation or views on religion, politics, and so on. It breaks my heart to see friends having to navigate alone through the challenges of life without the strength that the love of their family can and should offer. I believe it is possible to continue to love someone whose views are totally and completely different from yours. When looking up the word “Love” in the dictionary or thesaurus I have yet to have found the word “support” in the definition or as a synonym; therefore by loving someone that doesn’t mean you have to support them in their decisions, actions or opinions. However, to love does mean to show affection, appreciation, respect, tenderness, and warmth. Are we showing these emotions to our family members no matter their differing opinions?
So.. to wrap it up…
Here’s what I’ve learned and hope to remember from my trip down interview lane: Families come in all shapes, forms, and sizes and no two families are exactly alike. Each family has its unique set of challenges and trials and it is up to each parent to figure out what parenting techniques best suit their family’s needs. What works for one family may not work for another but it is essential that each couple center their efforts on the principles of unconditional love. By doing this, we will teach our children to be valiant human beings who desire to help those around them as well as to participate wholesomely in their communities and, most importantly, to teach these same principles to their own future children. This is a pattern that must continue and is the key to creating happy families and better communities.
For another great article on parenting, I would read Letting Kids Be Kids written by Trisha not too long ago!