Today we’re going to talk a little bit about parenting. Specifically, I want to address the balance between love and discipline. Have you ever thought about the need for a balance between these two necessary elements for solid parenting? In order to illuminate the need for a balance between the two, we are going to look at an unbalance, or taking one or the other to extremes. We’ll start with love or acceptance.
How can loving your kiddos too much be a problem? I want to clarify exactly what I mean by being “over-loving.” This refers to parents having too much lenience, not strong enough boundaries, or trying to be your children’s “friend.” Although very well-meaning, kids don’t need their parents to be in the role of friend. They need their parents to be in the role of parent! Parenting well includes showing them where the limits are in their behaviors. If parents don’t have strong limits, and enforce them every time, their kids actually internalize this in a surprising way. They feel abandoned, as if their parents didn’t care enough about them to show them where the line was. They also lose security in knowing how the world works and what the logical consequences for their actions are.
This side takes harshness and criticism to the extreme. This is very shaming and kids experience this as an inability to do very little, or even anything, right. Parents that land on this extreme are also well-meaning, trying very hard to socialize their kids behaviors and help them to excel in life. With no counter-balance of love, however, ultimately they lose a positive self-image and become either paralysed by fear of failure, or perfectionists that torture themselves into succeeding, but without the peace and satisfaction that comes with a job well done.
Both of these extremes are out of balance. A very important distinction to help your kids make is that their lovability doesn’t depend on their performance. It sounds a little like this, “I love you and that will never change, but there are limits and boundaries to your behavior. I want you to excel and do your best at everything you put your mind to, but how much I love you doesn’t depend on how well you do. Always do your best, and I will watch you do amazing things!”
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© 2015 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW