How well do you love your kids in good and bad times? After bad games or good games?
We all love our children. Of course, we do. We sacrifice for them, putting aside our own needs and desires to care for them. We’d lay down our lives for our kids. Parental love is one of the strongest forces on earth.
But on some days–those times when your kids are fighting with each other, arguing with you, refusing to listen, and most definitely not cooperating–you may feel like you don’t like them very much at all.
This inner conflict is very frustrating for parents. On one hand, you love them deeply because they are your kids and on the other hand you don’t like them because they are making your life very hard at the moment.
How do parents continue to love their children even in those moments when they do not like them very much? Here are my thoughts:
Take a Step Back
Instead of acting upon your feelings of dislike by getting angry or ostracizing your child, take a few minutes to step back emotionally and try to understand what’s really going on.
There’s always a reason for your child’s behavior. It may be something they can articulate, or it may be something even they are not aware of. Seeking to understand the “why” behind their “what” will help you see the situation more clearly. In some cases, your child may not be deliberately trying to aggravate you; they may simply be acting out an inner conflict.
When they are in a receptive mood, ask them what they are feeling and thinking. Listen without judgment and offer your perspective on the situation.
That approach will say, “I love you” very loudly to your child, even if they don’t respond in the way you’d like them to.
Sometimes, You Just Have to Ignore Their Behavior
There are times when parents must have the ability to simply ignore their child’s attitude or behavior. This is especially true with kids who sulk, clam up and ignore you.
Kids are very good at being grouches. They may not say much, but their negativity screams loud and clear through what they are saying, not saying, and what their body is saying. Sometimes the best way to love them in the moment is to ignore it and not let them ruin your day too.
Your positivity in the face of their negativity proclaims, “I love you” even when you are a wet blanket.”
Remind Yourself of What You Like About Them
On days when my kids really frustrated me, I had to discipline myself to remember what I loved about them. Sometimes another person will help you see this.
I remember a conversation once with a mom who was struggling with what she perceived as her older son’s laziness. I listened to her frustrations and then told her what I saw: “I see a young man who is loving, loyal, talented, and fun to be around.” She stopped for a moment and said, “You know, you’re right.”
Sometimes it’s good to ask a friend to help you see more clearly. We always see the ugly parts of the people we are closest to. Taking time to think about and even write down the beautiful parts of those people is a simple reminder of what it is we love about them.
Love That Shows and Tells
Love is an action, not just a feeling. Love is often a choice, not just a compulsion. And sometimes you have to choose to act out your love for your child, even when it feels momentarily satisfying to withhold it from them.
So, in those moments, you act like the adult that you are, and you show and express love to your child even if you’re not feeling very loving. Recite to them the reasons you love them–besides the fact that they are your child, of course. However, if that’s the only thing you can come up with in the moment, then go with it! And let them know that your love is unconditional. That nothing they do will ever change that. Have you told your child that lately?
It doesn’t matter how you are feeling when you say that. You may be disgusted with their behavior, hurt by what they said, or just angry at their resistance. Let them hear it anyway.
And that’s It?
Wait, you may say, I thought you were going to tell me how to love my child when I don’t feel like it. You just told me how to ACT.
Exactly. Because quite honestly, that’s what love is in its purest, most uncomplicated form. It’s an action.
How do you love your child when you don’t like them very much? You ACT the love and ignore your feelings in the moment. That’s TRUE love.
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