love parenting pointers

Parenting pointers: Teaching kids love and acceptance

A word from BRIKA HQ in celebration of Valentine’s Day: All you need is love 

Valentine’s Day: whether you love it or hate it, it’s easy for even hopeless romantics to feel a bit disillusioned by it. At its worst, the unofficial holiday can be divisive. But at a time when political forces pose a greater threat to unity than a day devoted to love, the commitment to compassion and acceptance is more crucial now than ever before.

Like feelings of gratitude, gestures of love and empathy should be practiced daily. Below, our resident parenting expert, Liz, discusses the significance of these actions in the familial sphere, and how the way we may speak to another person or group has an impact on how our kids see or judge that person or group. The social significance of this extends beyond setting a good example to our kids. Practicing tolerance and acceptance, in words and gestures both small and large, is important to the greater good of society. At BRIKA, we made “celebrate connections of all kinds” our Valentine’s Day motto, and we encourage you to do the same. 

Remember to always be kind – and that the good guy always wins. That much we’re sure of.

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Founder of Liz B. Parenting, a parenting consulting practice, Liz Berholz is an educator, speaker and Adler Institute-trained Life and Professional Coach. Liz works with parents of toddlers, tweens and teens by giving families the tools they need to create homes and lives filled with mutual respect, cooperation, connection, responsibility and fun.

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It seems glaringly obvious that our love for our kids should be unconditional. But do we really stop to think about what that means, and why it’s important? Here’s a direct quote from the Oxford Dictionary: “To be loved unconditionally is to be loved for who we are.” Powerful and simple, but not always easy.

Being able to love someone unconditionally is a tricky thing to do. It assumes we know who they are and can accept them for who they are, warts and all. The beauty about kids, who know their parents love them unconditionally, is that they are more likely to want to listen when a little “parenting” comes into play – such as boundary setting – and they are more likely to cooperate. They are also more likely to grow up feeling secure and confident. Nice perk, no?

What I’ve noticed in my work with families is that there are a few fundamental things that can have an immense impact on love and understanding within the “family team”:

  • Take the time.

    Spend quality time getting to know each individual for who they are (not who we want them to be) and find out how they want to be loved. Do they crave time chatting at bedtime? Are they a real snuggler during movie night? Do they really appreciate some occasional help with their challenging chores? Do they get really excited about Mommy-daughter date night? Find what makes them feel warm and fuzzy and focus on doing more of it.

  • Become a translator.

    Listen beneath the surface of their words to understand what they might be saying. “You’ve hurt me, so I am going to push you away” coming out of the mouth of your tween may actually make you want to try to show more love, but instead, what your tween really says is “I hate you!”, and gets grounded for it. See the difference?

  • Separate what they do from who they are.

    When a child does something that needs some parenting or correction, be sure to let them know you love them, you just don’t like their behaviour. Some kids misinterpret firm boundary setting as a direct threat to their love and connection with that parent. Ironically, this can result in an overall decrease in cooperative behaviour. A child may think, “Well, I’m obviously a bad person so of course I act like this!” Instead, changing the way we approach the behaviour and separating it from the child, will help them see it’s just the action that is a bad choice – not them who is a bad person.

I think it’s timely to note that love and acceptance go beyond the family too. How do we reflect on love and acceptance of others, whether they are similar or different from us, and our family?

There is evidence that our kids can ‘catch’ social bias through our body language and tone of voice. One study found that even the way we may lean toward or speak to an individual or group has a significant impact on how our kids see or judge that same individual or group. Saying that we accept and respect all human beings, regardless of their cultural background, life choices or religion, may not be enough. Perhaps our body language and our actions speak louder than words.

If we want our children to grow up with love and acceptance of others as core life values, we need to remember to walk the walk; not just talk the talk. Communicate your values with your words, body language and actions.

Communicating your love to your children with these same things in mind will make it very clear how unconditionally you love them for who they are. What you’ll likely notice when you’re modelling this behaviour, is that they will learn from you and begin to return the favour.

Most importantly in all this: don’t forget self-love. That’s truly where it all begins. What are you doing for yourself for Valentine’s Day?

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