Happy Parents, Happy Child!
From the book ‘Your Child is Your Parent’ By Manoj J Lekhi.
Conflicts, big or small, are always a cause for concern and so it is when there is constant bickering between the parents, especially in the presence of the child.
One of the most common reasons for a child to turn into a disturbed child is the mother and father always being at loggerheads with each other. Alternatively, when the mother and father have a healthy relationship and regularly express their love and gratitude to each other, in front of the child, the child will grow up emotionally much secure.
The most appropriate time for such intimate moments between the mother, father and the child is when the child is about to sleep or when the child has just woken up. It is important that both the parents together put the child to sleep, playfully, having fun and cracking jokes over the happenings of the day. This makes the child immensely joyful and positively ecstatic.
The best gift that parents can give their child is respect and love for each other; the return gift is an extremely strong emotional bonding with the child and hence an emotionally stable child.
A disturbed marital relationship creates a disturbed child, emotionally insecure and depressed.
I have come across many couples who shared a strained relationship but who became very close to each other with the birth of a child. I have also come across couples who somehow get along with each other just for the sake of their children. I’m sure you will agree with me that a child is a dynamic force that brings one closer to one’s spouse.
Most often, the cause of a strained relationship is a difference of opinion between the husband and the wife, the lack of understanding of each other’s need for freedom and space and the inability to accept each other the way he or she is.
Total acceptance is a virtue which one attains only when one endeavours to walk on the spiritual path. This path becomes much smoother and easier when both the husband and the wife tread on it together, introspecting and, more important, meditating.
Every individual has both the male and female domains within them. In a man there is an obvious prominence of
the male domain, but the female domain is also an essential part and it exists. Similarly, in a woman, the female domain is more prominent, but one cannot deny the existence of the male domain.
Each of these domains is associated, respectively, with the male and female energies. The male energy denotes vision, action and creativity while the female energy depicts contentment, practicality and modesty.
Both these energies are very essential for the healthy and wholesome upbringing of a child. The child must receive and gather the energies of both the mother and the father, failing which he will grow up with erratic and extreme emotions. This happens when the parents have mutual love and respect. The self-esteem of the child drops dramatically when love between the parents is incomplete.
However, if, unfortunately, such a situation already exists, what should one do to rectify it? The best solution to this problem would be that the mother and father forget their differences and live happily. If only all children were so lucky!
In the case of such fractured families which cannot be plastered easily, it is always advisable to be completely honest and straightforward with the child without getting into the intricate details of the deteriorating relationship. In this way, the child is at least aware that he cannot expect too much from his parents.
Instead of the child witnessing the fights and the differences,
and feeling confused and disturbed, you can tell the child, “Dear, your father and I do not agree on all the things as we are two different people. We are doing our best to understand each other, so please support us by your understanding”.
I had once read a book, The Five Love Languages, authored by Gary Chapman which dealt with the five universal love languages between a man and wife. I would like to include here what I understood of the same and adapt the same ideologies to a more satisfying parent–child relationship. Even Gary Chapman has apparently later extended his concept of ‘Five Love Languages’ to a parent-child relationship.
Yours and your spouse’s or child’s emotional love language may be as different as Chinese and English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse or child understands only Chinese, you both will never manage to love each other.
Seldom do a husband and a wife have the same primary emotional love language; hence, when one of them tends to speak a particular love language, the other may get totally confused and, thus, may be unable to reciprocate the love. A similar situation can arise between a parent and the child. I liked the metaphor the first time I heard it from Gary Chapman: “Every child is an ‘emotional tank’ waiting to be filled with love”. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave.
Understanding the five love languages and learning to speak the primary love language of your spouse and your child may affect his or her behaviour radically. People behave more positively when their emotional love tanks are full. The five primary love languages are, basically, five different ways of expressing love. Every individual has one predominant language through which he or she expresses love and so he or she feels loved in return only if his or her lover reciprocates in the same language. Hence it is essential to explore the love language of your spouse and that of your child to be able to make them feel loved.
Gary Chapman talks about five love languages, and I condense them as follows.
A) WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
In the words of Gary Chapman, ‘Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”. If we take Twain literally, six compliments a year would have kept his emotional love tank at the operational level. Your spouse will probably need more.’
Positive compliments such as “You look great in that dress!” or “Wow! Your room looks clean!” etc. simply bring about a “Yes, I am good, too” feeling in people, and especially so in children.
Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your child’s point of view. Children love to hear something good about themselves and it sure helps to be more vocal with your appreciation
B) QUALITY TIME
This is the second love language. The central aspect of quality time is togetherness which does not mean solely physical proximity. Two people sitting in the same room are in close proximity physically, but they are not necessarily together essentially. Togetherness has to be with focussed attention.
When a father is sitting on the floor, rolling a ball to his two-year-old, his attention should be totally on his child. For that moment, however long it lasts, they are together. If, however, the father is talking on the phone while he rolls the ball, his attention is diluted.
Some parents and children are spending time together when in reality they are only staying in close proximity. They are in the same house at the same time but they are not together. A father who is watching sports on television while he talks to his daughter is not giving her quality time because then she does not have his full attention.
Quality conversation is another fundamental aspect of spending quality time together. The important tips to remember here are to maintain eye contact when your child is talking to you, to not indulge in other things at that time, to listen with feeling, to observe the body language, too, and to avoid interrupting.
Recent research has indicated that the average individual listens for, at the most, seventeen seconds before interrupting and interjecting his own ideas.
Thus, we may conclude that giving quality time to your child is being with them one hundred percent. You may do together something that both of you enjoy doing; it could be anything as long as both of you want to do the same thing together — playing together, washing the car together, or just dinner or a movie at the theatre.
C) GIVING OR RECEIVING GIFTS
This is the third love language. Gifts are the visual symbols of love. Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than to others. Gifts come in all sizes, colours and shapes. Some are expensive and others are free. To the child whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the monetary value of the gift will matter little.
If you discover that your child’s primary love language is receiving gifts, then perhaps you will understand that purchasing gifts for him or her is the best investment you can make.
I remember the period when my daughter Vedoci was between 1 and 8 years; I used to regularly give her gifts. Want to know what the gifts were? Anything I would find on the beach: sea shells, pigeon feathers, different stones etc. What was important was my excitement in giving her the gifts.
I would be so excited that I would gift wrap it or wrap it in newspaper, and then hide it around the house. Then I would ask her to search for them and find them. This turned it into a beautiful game. She is now 11 years old and I still play this game. She loves it and waits eagerly for it. In fact, it has become a problem for me. The gifts she gets for me are also the same.
What you give does not matter; the excitement with which you give is all that matters.
There is an intangible gift that sometimes speaks more loudly than a gift that can be held in one’s hand. I call it the ‘gift of self’ or the ‘gift of presence’. Being there when your child needs you is the best gift you can give someone whose primary love language is receiving gifts.
D) ACTS OF SERVICE
This is the most common way of both expressing love and feeling loved. Small acts of services can make or break relationships. It is the surest way of transmitting the feeling, ‘I care for you’, leading to its logical extension, ‘I love you’.
A child whose dominant love language is this will feel overwhelmed by small acts of services.
Lord Jesus Christ gave a simple but profound illustration of expressing love by an act of service when He washed the feet of His disciples.
Be of use to the child in small ways, e.g., sharpen his pencils or help him with his home-work (we like to use the word home- play). Do these small acts of service and see the magic.
E) PHYSICAL TOUCH
Physical intimacy in a relationship is the reinforcement of love and security. Physical touch may range from a mere holding of hands to hugging the child tightly.
We have long known that newborn babies who are held, hugged and kissed develop stable emotional patterns and grow up feeling secure while those who are left for long periods of time after birth without physical contact grow up feeling unloved, unwanted and unappreciated.
Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love. If your child’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important than holding him or her as he or she cries.
Meeting my child’s need for love is a choice I make each day. If I can make out his or her primary love language and choose to honour it, his or her deepest emotional need will be met and he or she will feel secure in my love.
So, I would suggest to you to spend some time introspecting about your primary love language and that of your child. Once you are able to make it out, and begin expressing your love in that language, you will find your relationship improving by leaps and bounds.