I have wanted to tackle this topic for a long time and was finding ways to get to it without people getting the wrong message or even upsetting those that love their kids, as I have no doubt that we all parents love our children. Here we have another paradigm shift in thoughts moving away from the conditioning of the past and we faced with another cognitive dissonance. I challenge you to hear me out before jumping on the bandwagon of emotional reactions.
Before we continue, for those that have not read my introductory post on Life Learning, go here http://pragashnienaidoo.co.za/2017/02/23/142. This would give you a better understanding of the direction I am approaching the topic of Unconditional Love, Trust, and Respect.
If we look at the development of a child from in utero, we the mother [and father] take care of ourselves, make sure we are well-nourished and keep our baby safe from any harm by not risking harm to ourselves, but baby in utero develops naturally and learns basic instinctual stuff like thumb sucking in the womb, it is a reflex reaction. Baby is born and we continue with the unconditional love and give baby a safe environment, checking on her/him, changing diapers, feeding and nurturing, going on his/her demands and cycles (well not in all cases as a lot of parents have got schedules to feed their kids and right here is a great example of conditioning already taking place). And if you analyze this, babies bonding time is during feeding time mostly when newly born and we have already put a condition on this. Bonding equates to love, is how baby perceives it. Does this mean there is a schedule to the love and schedules are conditions?
Yeah, so we do this entire but then something changes as baby changes and grows and the demands may or may not get greater but then here is what we are conditioned as adults to believe; we are conditioned to believe that in order for our child to learn we need to start having conditions in place, like the way we had when growing up. We are led to ‘believe’ we taught our child to crawl, walk and talk which are reflexive reactions anyway, so we need to teach the child what to do when to do and how to do it.
Let us look at this term Unconditional Love: Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations or love without conditions. This term is sometimes associated with other terms such as true altruism or complete love.(Wikipedia)
Now let us try to explore where this all started, the conditions on love and why I believe it is a wrong thing for parents to say “I love my kids unconditionally” as it is not a reflection of what we actually do. I think it starts with us, our own conditioning and what love supposed to look like. We may feel staying in an abusive relationship, as an example because it is ok to be beaten up, verbally abused and its likes and you deserve this so your love becomes conditions. He hits me because he loves me. I love him unconditionally so I stay with. How often do we get people saying “If you love me unconditionally then you will buy me……or cook me…… or come with me……?” Unconditional love starts with yourself; it starts with your own self-worth. Ok, so I am probably using quite a drastic example but every little expectation placed on someone daily is an act of conditional love being perceived as unconditional love because we were conditioned to believe this. You never know what love is, until you truly love yourself and then only you can truly love another.
Our kids start developing and they feel the love of their parents, but then parents start putting conditions on things and the baby/child starts wanting to please the parent as they equate it to if mom and dad are happy means I feel loved. It really is quite a tricky thing, I may add. It is not simple to identify in yourself and your relationship with your child. And honestly speaking I am challenging you to broaden your mind and think out of the box like I mentioned in my introduction.
Please do not mistake this for not putting safety measures for your kids. But even too much of ‘safety measures’ can hinder a child’s growth. Example “don’t climb that stair, you will fall” placing fear in the child may hinder his natural instincts to explore. Another topic for another post.
I believe we love our kids unconditionally when they are born, but it changes over time. Our kids are taken care of when they are little but as they grow older and develop their own identity, which they already have BTW just we find the need to give them an identity to suit what we feel is best for them. The conditions on love get larger as they get older.
If I can explain what does Unconditional Love means to me then possibly you would get a better perspective of where I am coming from. For me to truly unconditionally love my child is to leave my child to develop at her own pace and time and to create a safe space for her to continue her development, for me to leave her to have the rights to her own body, mind and soul, for me to love her EXACTLY how she is, for me to truly understand what TRUST and RESPECT means for my child and largely for me to trust myself so she can be a free person in mind, body, and spirit. My children are born from me, but they are NOT me. We are just the caretakers to making sure their basic needs are met and they are kept [mostly] safe (safety measures are also debatable). In doing so or being this way with my kids, they have the rights to their OWN body and they are able to set and push their own boundaries for themselves. It is also NOT enforcing MY BELIEF (religion) system on him. Yes, another touchy subject, to explore, but I think it is such an essential one as doctrines generally come with their own conditions of love. This is what unconditionally loving my kids’ means to me.
I can never just talk about unconditional love without addressing Respect and Trust. I like to laugh when I think about the things we were told when growing up, and one of them is, we need to respect our elders. I often just find that so funny. I still hear it every now and then and mostly I do not say anything as I just don’t like confronting people head on (that is why I started blogging, to share my ideologies and opinions in a non-confrontational manner and create conversation in a practical and intelligent way). So tell me again, why do kids have to respect their elders? Just because they are older than us or just because they said so? I often find that people get challenged by my kids just having an opinionated conversation and they get accused of being disrespectful. Respect works both ways, period. Kids learn by example, so if you do not give them respect how are they expected to reciprocate it? You need to respect them as you would respect any other adult or individual. Respect breeds Respect.
Trust I often find that, trusting ourselves to trust our kids is the most important aspect of trust. This also ties back to unconditional love. Trust your child to grow, trust your child to make mistakes, trust your child to learn from his mistakes (and not at the first time either), and trust your child to face challenges. Trust your child to be himself and if he ‘messes ups’ (there is no messing up in my opinion, but you can avoid large chunks of it if you just unconditionally love your child in the first place), YOU LOVE HIM/HER anyway! YOU NEED TO TRUST YOURSELF.
Here are some of the factors that chip away the Unconditional Love, Respect, and Trust.
The first problem I have with schools, we claim to love our kids, but yet we are willing to leave them almost the whole day with a stranger we have never met. Talk about the safety of our kids. I do have regrets of sending my older son to school when I did not know home-schooling was actually an option 15 years ago. A school is a curse and plays the most important role of chipping away into our kids’ self-esteem, confidence, respect, trust, and unconditional love. We put our kids together with other kids and expect them to perform at high levels on all levels, academic, social and creative. They only ever get 45 min in total to play with friends. And my favourite for those that do send their kids to school, oh they play in the class and they do lots of creative stuff and they are free to roam about freely in the class but when this, this and that subjects are taught they are expected to sit down and learn (and I say this with much respect but need to mention this as to make my point and MY thoughts on the subject and by no means expect every parent to be like me). I do not even want to begin to talk about how teachers complain about a child that does not sit down to learn “straight to the Ritalin and off with their heads!” Every child is different yet every child is faced every day with the decision to be better than his classmate to feed the extravagant award system we have in place for our kids. And our kids may associate this with love, “if I do this properly then I would be recognized and loved.” Schools are another whole topic and I cannot cover everything in this post. Schools need to change to Life Learning Centres and we as inhabitants of this earth need to see the urgency of this. Schools are killing our kids and yet no one is doing anything about it. It is indoctrination and still very much part of industrialization. The following points fall under the school system but are extended from the home of the child.
DISCIPLINING YOUR KIDS
There is no such thing as a naughty child but there is definitely an inquisitive child. We were spanked when we did anything ‘naughty’ when we were growing up and I know how demeaning and hurtful it can be, emotionally specifically. You chip away at the child’s confidence and self-esteem again and equating love to punishment. When I had my first son, I chose to be different but even my ‘different’ methods when I look at it now is emotional blackmail and emotional abuse. A simple thing as putting a child in the ‘naughty corner’ can be devastating for a small child that is predisposed to be a sensitive child. Put yourself in your child’s shoe before exercising any methods of discipline. I often get parents asking me, but what if he doesn’t listen and is now a delinquent teenager. Go back to step one, where did it all start? Have you created a safe and conducive environment for your child to grow and explore on his own? Have you given your child an example of how to be as there is no use instilling all these disciplinary actions on him or her when you yourself drink every weekend? Is being delinquent a way of asking for love and the only way he seems to get the attention he needs is from being destructive? I know it may not be in all cases as there are always exceptions to the rules. The other question you should ask yourself, will you go put an adult in a naughty corner for back chatting? Back chatting really is a very mild example but you would never swear, hit, scream, and shout at another adult, so why do we do it to our kids? Are they not people too? Where are the Unconditional Love, Respect, and Trust in disciplining kids?
The reward system speaks for itself. ‘I get things for doing great stuff.’ Maybe that is the problem with the world, creating greed from reward systems. From all that I have explained so far, I am sure you have already deduced [hopefully] that the reward system is a big fail the three factors represented here. Get 100% in school and you get a reward for it. Get abused by a child abuser, it is ok; he has rewarded me with a sweet. I am sorry but this is the extent our society has taken things. Of course, according to psychology, there are many benefits of the reward system but it only works if the CHILD himself immerses himself in it for HIS OWN personal growth.
This will not fly very well with most religious people and that is ok. I understand every household is different and we all have an idea of what a balanced lifestyle looks like. But unfortunately, religion and doctrines do not fall under the umbrella of Life Learning or abides by the 3 precepts; Unconditional Love, Trust, and Respect. It is NOT child reared or interest-driven. It is very much parents and family rules and regulations driven. A child does not need to be indoctrinated by fallacies and what your concept of spirituality is. He will explore this on his own; it is very personal to him. If he decides to follow you in your footsteps, he should do so, as long as it comes from him. Religion has so many fears and so many rules about what unconditional love, respect, and trust looks like. ‘Sure, let’s trust the Catholic priests with our sons, which should turn out just fine!’ ‘Let’s be really great citizens and God will love us and send us to heaven.’ Doctrines are the worst suppressants of emotions that I have ever come across. There is no room for expression nor, is there no room for growth as we all need to be and do well all the time, so our next lives will be better. So tell me again why we can’t leave our kids to find the path that fits them. Oh, wait! We love our kids and we do not want them to be damned to hell. There is that condition right there!
I think expectations are probably one of those things that nobody is really aware of but is there and it also ties in with all of the above. We expect our child to walk by a certain age, so we push our kids. We expect them to do well in school so we put rewards and discipline in place. We expect our kids to do a lot of things but yet they must be punished for a lot of things they don’t do.
I believe many of our problems eating disorders like anorexia and obesity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, premature sex and much more stems from the simple fact that we do not Unconditionally Love, Respect and Trust our kids. And I know many of you may say, but I do have all of this 3 qualities for my kids, and I believe you, but you would need to have all of the above conditions removed to really experience and fully be aware of what it is really like to bask in the glory of kids and watch your masterpiece unfold without any interference, placing it in the right environment to blossom naturally. It really is a work of art.
A flower never thinks of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms AND when the flower does not bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows not the flower. (Author unknown)
I would like to conclude by saying, I am still learning and by no means the perfect parent, but I do have to mention that my kids are free kids, free to be themselves most importantly. Whenever I knew better, I strived to accomplish better. I think there may be more factors but I think the others may stem from these sources.