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A Work in Progress: Walking with Jesus

Free to Fly- The importance of loving our children unconditionally

on February 28, 2013

Pretty much all parents would agree that they’d like their children to be happy. Many would say they would like them to be successful, too. But how do we define success? I think we need to be careful about over-emphasising the achievements of our children. Let me explain what I mean by that.

If we focus too much on their achievements, be they academic ones or in the field of music, drama, sport or anything else, they can start to believe that that is what defines them. We so often pigeon-hole them- ‘She’s my brainy one’, ‘he’s my little budding footballer’, ‘she got all the looks in our family’, ‘he’s the funny one’. If we’re not careful they start to adopt these titles for themselves and thus place limitations on their expectations of what they are capable of.

Even more importantly, and dangerously, they may start to think that they will only gain our approval, attention and recognition if they attain a certain level of achievement. They can think that their identity and self-worth is found in what they do, not in who they are. Sure, it’s right that we should celebrate with them when they do something they are proud of. But it is more important that we reassure them that we love them all the time, no matter what. We may think it’s obvious, that they know that, but they don’t. We need to tell them, to put it into words.

That may mean saying to the child who is sitting an exam at school ‘Do your best. Whether you pass or fail, I love you just the same, and so does God.’ It may mean reassuring a child on the football team that of course they want to win, but whatever the outcome of the match, you are proud that they are on the team. It might be telling the budding actress that if she gets that part she’s auditioning for then great; if not, the world will not end, another opportunity will come along, and that your feelings about her will be unchanged either way.

Basically, we need to let our children know that they are loved unconditionally. Children loved like this will gain in confidence, will be secure in their own identity, and will be less frightened of taking risks, and potentially doing something wrong or failing at a task. They will be safe in the knowledge that they have a safety net: you. If they know that your love is a constant in their lives you will release them to soar and fly, and to be the unique individuals they were created to be. As a Christian parent I can also teach my children that there is a God who loves them like that, too- that nothing they do can make him love them any more, or less.

We need to tell our children what we love about them- what it is about their character that makes them unique and special. We should try to notice and affirm those character traits such as kindness, patience and honesty for example, which may not be noticed or celebrated by anyone else. We need to look out for the day-to-day successes, such as supporting a sibling who’s having a hard time, or standing up for a friend, not just the big triumphs seen by everyone.

We should also ask ourselves if deep down we really want our child to ace the exam, make the team, get a modelling contract, for them, and only them, or if a part of us wants to bask in the reflected glory of how that makes us look. Are we trying to live our lives through our children, wanting to see them achieve what we wished we had when we were younger? Are we trying to fit a child-shaped peg into a me-shaped hole?

Let’s celebrate the one-of-a-kind, unique creation that is each one of our children. I challenge you today to tell each of your kids one thing you especially like about them, and to tell them you love them, forever and always, and that nothing will ever change that.

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2 responses to “Free to Fly- The importance of loving our children unconditionally

  1. Tanya Marlow says:

    Love this! And totally agree with the dangers of naming/overemphasising our children’s achievements in that way. It was really helpful that you have examples of ‘how to’ as well as ‘how not to’. Thanks for this- I’ve enjoyed my visit round your blog!

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