Tough Unconditional Loving of Children

There is a notion I frequently encounter that to unconditionally love your children means letting them get away with murder! Actually, the opposite is the truth – to not unconditionally love children either means you let them get away with murder or you ‘murder’ (in the metaphorical sense of the word) them in order to keep them in line. To unconditionally love children automatically leads parents to model and guide their children step-by-step to taking responsibility for self and for all their actions. The difference between the parents who are unconditional and those who are conditional is the way they carry out their parenting responsibility to rear children to become separate and independent. 

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Families are for Children, not for Adults

A family is the collective context wherein children are reared. When a couple do not have children their coupledom is termed a marriage or a partnership, not a family. When children reach adult age – eighteen years – they need to ‘fly the nest’ and become their own person, independent and responsible for their own lives. Flying the nest is primarily an emotional leave-taking of the family, not a purely physical one. Nowadays, because of economic circumstances, many young adults remain on in the home of their parents, but it is the nature of that residing that requires examination. Eighteen year olds and upwards do not need to be parented; when they allow that they stay in a co-dependent place with their parents and, often with brothers and sisters as well. The young adult may complain that it would upset his parents were he to assert his independence and the right to take responsibility for his own life. The reality is that unless he separates he may remain enmeshed with his parents for the rest of his life or may eventually leave the house in a rebellious storm of protest and blame his parents for his unhappy state, sometimes never to return.

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There are no Dysfunctional Families

I recall when I wrote the book The Power of ‘Negative’ Thinking in 1996 several journalists interviewed me and, subsequently wrote articles on the theme of the book and my own personal experiences as a child, teenager and adult. Following such publications a number of individuals whom I vaguely knew approached me and exclaimed: ‘I never knew you came from a dysfunctional family’.  Regrettably, at the time I was not quick enough to do two things: one, to assert that in my view there is no such phenomenon as a dysfunctional family and, two, to return the statement to the person who said it: ‘how is it that you need to make such a comment?’

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Raising Responsible Teenagers

When a child or teenager goes on the rampage in response to a ‘no’ from a parent, what is the parent to do? Certainly, a clip around the ear would only be fighting fire with fire and does not model for the young person a mature way of managing a conflict situation. The immediate response to a child who is attempting to gain control through destructive or terrorising behaviour is to physically hold the child in a firm and non-threatening way that is safe for the parent and prevents him/her from continuing the intimidatory behaviour. When it is a teenager, the parent needs to keep a safe distance, maintain strong eye-contact and request firmly that (s)he immediately desists from this disturbing behaviour. If the teenager continues rampaging, then within the young person’s earshot, the parents need to ring the police and request immediate help. This latter response is both a kindness to self and to the son or daughter.

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