We do so much for our children. We give our time, attention, money, and bodies to them. Most of my physical and emotional energy is spent caring for and having patience with my children. Together my husband and I provide a home, food, clothing, books, toys, trips, schooling, and everything (reasonably) under the sun for them. We use communication, feedback, books, therapy-anything we can get our hands on-to be more effective parents. Why? Because these kids are LOVED. But here is the catch, being loved is not enough.
It matters less that your child is loved by you than if your child feels loved by you. That is to say, feeling loved is more important than being loved. Yes, you read that right. What our child feels should be the biggest priority. Let me explain.
I can’t stress the importance of playing with your child to help them feel loved. Think of your child’s invitation to “play with me” like an invitation you would give to your friend. If you repeatedly invite your friend to lunch, the movies or a bike ride and they said no each time would you feel loved? This is how our child feels when we say no to them over and over. The same analogy works when you’re having a meltdown. If you opened up to a friend and began to cry, how would you feel if they said, “stop crying, you’re fine.” “Do you want me to leave you here?” “It’s not that bad”. All of these responses would make you feel unloved. It feels much better when someone simply sits close and listens.
Child’s perspective, I feel loved when:
I feel seen
I feel heard
I feel understood
I feel accepted
I am played with
I am safe
I know I matter because they value me enough to see, hear, understand, and accept me.
I know I matter because I am played with.
I know I am safe because I can predict my days most of the time.
Parent: “Of course I love you”
I provide a home, clothing, meals, cooking cleaning for you.
I haven’t slept well in over 3 years for you.
I conjure up endless amounts of patience to care for you all day.
I think about you all day and night.
I put time, energy and effort into making myself better for you.
I give endless amounts of effort to nurture you and keep you engaged happily in life.
This represents the child’s perspective and the parent’s perspective. The child’s perspective is extremely limited. They know nothing of your life before them, your thoughts, or sacrifices. We must operate from their perspective, using what they do know. Regardless of what you tell them, a child will never know what is in your heart. They only know their own heart. So, how do we tap into what makes our children feel loved? See things from their perspective then choose to connect with them from their point of view as often as you can.
Here are some ways to help your child FEEL loved.
Hold boundaries confidently and calmly (I am safe)
Sitting near but staying quiet during a meltdown (I feel heard)
Providing at least 10 min. per day of special time with your child where anything they say goes. (I feel seen)
If they invite you to play accept the invitation as often as you can (I feel accepted and played with)
If your child tells you something, listen to them. Then say things like “That makes sense” Or “I can see why you feel that way” (I feel understood)
The work of a parent is hard, the hardest in the world. I know when children feel loved, our lives and theirs become a lot easier. Let’s keep finding ways to help our children feel seen, heard, understood, accepted, safe, and played with so they can open up to the endless amounts of love we have for them.