Parenting Love, Is Yours Healthy?
I want to believe most parents “love” their children. However, I’m convinced by experience that some parents do not have a healthy love for their child. What I mean by this statement will become more obvious as you read further.
Loving your child in a healthy way is not such an easy thing to do. It is not that your child doesn’t need or deserve such love but healthy love requires a high degree of personal discipline and maturity. Good parenting can’t be done by lazy people. Undisciplined parents cannot raise disciplined children.
Unfortunately, some adults are incapable of healthy love because they are stuck in their own childhood needs. They have not grown up and cannot give a mature, grown-up kind of love in their marriage or as parents. This is why I believe the first order of business for the parent, after our commitment to God, is to grow up. Parents who act like children cannot rear children in a healthy environment.
So, how do you know if your love for your child is a healthy love? I think of healthy love in this way: healthy love seeks to do what is in the ultimate best interest of the other person. I think you will find this definition consistent with the New Testament concept of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and other passages, and with the teachings of Jesus.
One of the major implications of this definition is that you, the parent, must make judgments based on your understanding of what is best for your child. For example, over the course of his life, what values, skills and attitudes will best equip him for what lies ahead? This is a big deal. Your choices may be contrary to the wishes or ideas of your parents, contemporary society, religious teachings or other influences. You decide.
This judgment is unavoidable. You may decide to be very proactive in helping guide your child’s life. Or, you may choose, by default, to pay little or no attention to this matter. That, too, is a choice; one which will leave your child in a “fog” about what is of ultimate value in life.
For the sake and well-being of your child, I hope you will make your parenting love a healthy one for your child.
What parenting love is not.
I want to help you think about “healthy love” by discussing some things it is not. I will give you some examples and you can decide how successful you are in the way you love your child. (At the close of this blog I have included a link to 9 things you can do to become a more effective parent.)
1.Healthy parenting love doesn’t always give a child what he wants.
Children can be very fickle. The toy they couldn’t live without; the toy they ranted and scream for; the toy that would make them happy and stop the flood of tears is often abandoned for something else in a few days. They have no regard for how much it costs. They don’t understand money and where it comes from.
Why do we give in to this immaturity and nonsense? There are at least three reasons for such behavior on our part. First, we can’t stand to see our child so upset or unhappy with us. After all, our job is to make them happy. Pure foolishness, some disappointment in life isn’t going to wreck their self esteem.
Second, we may give in to prove we are not a bad parent. Your child may have the unfortunate circumstance of divorced parents. This can give your child some leverage of playing one of you against the other. Don’t fall for this and let your child manipulate you into proving you’re as good a parent as your ex-spouse. By the way, children will try this where marriages are intact, also.
Third, we may want to give our child what he wants because we are confused. Confused about what? We are confused in our thinking that love means you get what you want. What if what you want is not really good for you? What if what you want is not in the best interest of others? Always giving a child what he wants can be a sure way of helping him to grow to be a narcissistic, selfish, and destructive human being.
2.Healthy parenting love does not seek to be a child’s” best friend.”
Your child needs you to be his parent. You are not equals. You are the authority for your child and you should always understand that. One day you may become your child’s “best friend” but this is reserved for a time when you are both grown and they are no longer under your authority.
I know this may sound harsh but it is not. Your love for your child should be a balance of friendliness and firmness. Crossing either of those boundaries creates problems for your child.
Your child is probably very winsome and adorable. However, they do not generally look out for their own best interest. No, they learn how to charm and manipulate rather early in order to get what they want when they want it. Don’t take seriously their promise to” be your best friend” if you will let them have what they want. They’re not capable of being a real friend to you.
If you are somehow find yourself wanting your child to be your best friend, you may want to ask this question: “What is this about?” There could be many answers to this. You may be in a lonely marriage. You may not like do deal with confrontation with your child. You may feel it’s your role to make your child happy. The list could go on and on. Remember, trying to make your child happy with you may lead to their ultimate ruin.
Keep the lines clear as to who is the parent and who is the child. Your job is to be an adult and to assist your child to grow to be as healthy and functional as possible. Sometimes this will mean your child won’t like your decisions and will not claim you as their friend. You must be emotionally mature enough to deal with their displeasure without giving in to their threats and demands.
3.Healthy parenting love is not fulfilling your dreams through your child.
It is easy to understand how we might unconsciously try to live our life through our child. Most parents want the best for their child. Many want their children to have life better than they did growing up. They want them to have opportunities for education and success that they struggled for.
There is nothing wrong with wanting good things and success for your child. But, you may need to think hard about your definition of success and what is involved in accomplishing it.
Parents tend to define success according to our own struggles and experiences. This can be a real trap as we think about dreams for our child. It can set us up to try to live out our dreams, accomplish things we didn’t do, and build a name for our self through our child.
Here are some parenting reminders which may help you avoid trying to fulfill your dreams through your child.
First, true and lasting success is found only in our relationships with God, our self and others.( Matthew 22:34-40).Does this biblical concept guide your understanding of real success?
Second, your child is a gift to you. He is not your property or an instrument you can use to fulfill your dreams or make up for your disappointments in life. He belongs to God and to himself.
Third, God has a plan for your child and has chosen you as his parent to help him become all God intended him to be.
Many people grow old striving to fix that deficit in their parent’s life but never receive the sense of approval and acceptance they so desperately seek. Your child needs acceptance and the right to be himself and pursue his own dreams rather than to feel obligated to fix your disappointments or fulfill your dreams. To attempt to live for you is an emotional dead-end street for your child.
The link I promised you about parenting tips https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/nine-steps.html
Easy to read, practical case studies, and helpful advice for all parents.
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