Authoritative, authoritarian, neglectful, permissive, attached; all styles of parenting that leave any parent feeling overwhelmed about whether they’re raising their children the right way. It’s scary! In an imperfect world with imperfect people, you can’t blame any of us for feeling some fear around being the perfect parent. (Perfect being in quotation marks) What if something happens to them? Am I giving them enough love? Do they feel seen and heard? Am I neglecting them in some way? Am I too harsh or unresponsive? Am I . . . I digress.
Point is, we all wake up one day with a beautiful baby, and no matter how many parenting books and podcasts we consume, we’re still all making it up as we go; seeing what works and what doesn’t, making mistakes along the way, and having these moments of pure bliss when our children hit life’s milestones like their first laugh, word or step.
But it’s not realistic to think we can only have pure-bliss moments. The fact that our parenting journeys will be filled with a mix of failures and successes shouldn’t make us feel defeated like we’re letting our children down. It should feel like a breath of fresh air. You may think, “how so?” When we approach parenting by giving ourselves permission to make mistakes around our children, while also 100% loving them, the pressure we hold onto, or rather holds onto us, releases, and we’re left with a sense of ease.
This idea doesn’t give us an excuse to make more parenting mistakes, but, rather, directs our attention and priorities towards doing our best to love our children well. One way, and I’d say the best way, to do this, is through unconditional love. Now, this doesn’t mean solely showing love to our children when they do what we ask, and it doesn’t mean praising them when they’re kind, but shaming them when they act out.
Unconditional love is “when parents accept, love, and show affection to their children, even when they make mistakes or fall short of expectations,” in the New Port Academy article, Why Unconditional Love Is So Important for Parenting Teens. Although this article was written for teenagers, the parenting-gold applies to children of all ages.
Next time your children act out, try kindly holding them and helping them understand what’s going on inside that resulted in the behavior, instead of resorting to yelling. Try saying things like, “You must be very upset to speak to me like that. Did that hurt your heart?” Just this simply change can assist in raising emotionally intelligent children who understand their feelings.
One thing to mention though, having unconditional love doesn’t mean letting go of all discipline. For example, if your son starts hitting his siblings, gently walk him to his room without reacting to the hitting. Instead say things like, “Remember we don’t hit. I’m not mad at you, but you need some time to cool off. I’ll be back in two minutes to check on you.”
Life coach, Brooke Castillo, said in her Private Life Coach Certification something to the effect of, having unconditional love for our children means treating them the same way regardless of their actions. The only thing that changes is the discipline we give them.
Let’s take it to the beginning. Parenting can be hard. We’re bound to mess up. But instead of focusing on having to be perfect, let’s focus more on helping our children feel safe and accepted through unconditional love.