| Family Reflections |

The Way In

We need to make sure our kids feel our love for them


hen we feel love, we feel “home,” in the all-is-well zone. Love is our birthright, a compass guiding our search for connection to Hashem, to other people, and to ourselves. When love is missing, we know in our heart of hearts that something is “off” or possibly terribly wrong. The need to access this feeling of love — in wholeness and perfection — drives our daily behavior and large life goals. We love to love and be loved and, in fact, we’re not healthy unless we can do both.


My Parents Didn’t Love Me

Many of us grow up feeling unloved or insufficiently loved. We leave our childhood homes aching, undernourished from lack of love. In many cases, this isn’t because our parents didn’t love us. Rather, it happens because parents fail to convey their love.

But how does a parent perform this task? How would a child know just how loved he or she actually is?

“My mother didn’t get me,” says Goldie. “She’d take me to the hairdresser to get my hair trimmed and tell the hairdresser to chop it really short. I was desperate to have long hair, but she insisted it needed to be short because my thick curls were too hard to manage. She never seemed to care about how I felt, and so I felt she never really loved me.”

There are a myriad of ways to make children feel unloved. Failing to tune into and act on their feelings is just one. Offering frequent or harsh criticism is another. Punishing, yelling, disapproving — all of the “rejecting” communications — is another. Controlling and overprotective parenting can be yet another.

Still, none of these parental behaviors necessarily occur due to lack of love. They may simply be symptoms of unskilled parenting in people who love their kids. Children feel the pain caused by unskilled parents while remaining ignorant of the intentions and even love that lay beneath the disturbing parental behavior.

“My daughter’s long hair was so thick and knotted that washing it caused a major crisis every week. There was no way to get it clean without making Goldie squirm and cry and sometimes even melt down completely. The only thing I could do to prevent a recurring Thursday night battle was for me to insist that her hair be cut short,” says Goldie’s mother.


My Parents Were Great

What happens in a “loving” parent child-relationship is that the child feels the parents’ love. Even though there may be rules and limits, discipline and disappointments, misunderstandings and miscommunications, love somehow manages to make its way from the parents’ hearts into the child’s. Parental bad moods and bad moves get washed away in the overwhelming evidence of warmth, caring, and concern.

What can a parent do to ensure that love actually reaches their youngster? What does the child need in order to be a willing receptacle for her parents’ hearts?

To begin with, the amount of good-feeling communication is important. Following the 80/20 Rule definitely increases the likelihood that a child will feel loved. This rule states that 80 percent of the parents’ communications should feel good (loving) to the child. Smiles, affirmation, acknowledgment, praise, kind and respectful words, hugs, treats, laughter, quality time, gifts, attentive listening, naming feelings — these are all “keys” to open the door and allow love to pour in.

It’s not that these are hard to offer. It’s just that the 20 percent of not-good-feeling communication so easily stretches closer to 90 percent! The reason is that parents forget to include requests, instructions, and corrections — no matter how kindly articulated — in the not-good-feeling category. After all, no one at any age enjoys being told what to do or how to do it.

Moreover, these educational statements aren’t the only category of communication that’s included in the 20 percent. There is also the parent’s bad mood, the businesslike tone of voice that’s used when tired or irritated, the parent’s complaints to or about other people (includes fights or arguments one has with one’s spouse), threats of punishment, punishment, and more.

It takes tremendous effort to keep all this within the confines of the allotted 20 percent, yet it’s important to do.

To help with motivation, parents might keep in mind that as they shower good-feeling communication upon their kids, it’s not only the kids who benefit. Staying in the 80 percent improves the parents’ relationship with their children, heals the parents’ physical bodies, and fosters the parents’ emotional well-being. It’s as good to give as to receive good-feeling communication.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 878)

Oops! We could not locate your form.