Saturdays With Shivani- Love (*T&C apply)

Unconditional love- the first image that our mind conjures when we hear these words are a mother’s (parent’s) love for her (his) child. Parents are our one shot at this rare kind of love and we know that every child isn’t fortunate either to win the parent lottery. Yet so often I hear parents telling their children to do this and that or else they shall not talk to him/ her.  Fall in line… Behave or else…

I know that all that admonishing and threatening is for the child’s own good and no one really intends to follow it up with any dire consequences. Take a moment though to think how the child feels about it. For him/her it’s a Hobson’s choice. We may mean well but the message that might be reaching them is that if they fell short, our love would run out. They might assume that they are as expendable as that washing machine which was appreciated for its efficiency and then dumped unceremoniously once it refused to perform.

An exaggeration, I agree, but I hope I got your attention. I understand that as parents we want the best for our kids but we probably do not realise the effect these statements might have on impressionistic minds? Over time they start believing that love is transactional and that it is conditional. They may lose faith in themselves and may end up becoming people pleasers. Our constant badgering sows the seeds of insecurity in these young minds which a lifetime of therapy may not be able to erase.

In their formative years, we are the world for our children. This is the time when their emotional growth happens and they need to know that they are on terra firma. They should know that we have their back, no matter what; not just in our words but our actions as well. For that we need to be consistent and loving without any terms and conditions. Rules will have to be set; punishments will have to be meted out but in an essentially non-threatening atmosphere.

We take our ability to ‘make’ children very seriously. They are a force of nature just like the waterfalls. Even for a moment we don’t assume that a we can change the course of water. We know it’s a thing of joy that nature created for us to marvel at. I think children are to be treated in a similar manner.

I have said this before and I repeat it here- children are not our lifetime projects. God hasn’t signed an ownership deal to us. They have been loaned to us so that we may reconnect with our own childhood, as pure and unblemished as it was. They have come to us to teach us faith, patience and the power of unconditional love. There’s no fine print that says terms and conditions apply. Let’s reciprocate in the same currency and prove ourselves to be worthy of the trust that God has put in us.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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