'How To Really Love Your Child': A Must-Read Book For Parents
For someone who grew up in a dysfunctional family where there was hardly an expression of love from the parents to the children, Ross Campbell's "How to Really Love Your Child" may sound strange if not too good to be true. All the principles explained by Campbell in his bestselling book, though, are relevant to the Western and Eastern cultures. The following three principles will help a struggling parent:
1. The first and the most important prerequisite of good child-rearing is the home.
Home is where the family is. According to Ross Campbell, the marital relationship remains unquestionably the most important bond in the family, and that its effect on a child throughout his/her life is tremendous.
The author also unveils a vivid case illustration on how the marital union affects the life of a child. It highlights that parents' relationships could turn a child into either good or troublesome adolescent. The weaker the marital relationship, the more difficult the child will become. Nevertheless, the stronger the marriage bond, the fewer problems will be encountered by parents.
The very foundation and strength of the marriage bond lies in unconditional love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. Indeed, the best gift we can give our children is that of exemplifying this love in our marriage. It seems idealistic, but who doesn't want to be able to give this gift to a child? Always going back to this foundation whenever we are in conflict with our husbands will make no more room for frustrations.
2. If the most important relationship in the family must be based on unconditional love, the second most important relationship -- that of the parents and child -- must be built on the same love.
Campbell accentuates the next principle: "The foundation of a solid relationship with a child is unconditional love. Only this type of love relationship can assure a child's growth to his full and total potential. Only this foundation of unconditional love can assure prevention of such problems as feelings of resentment, being unloved, guilt, fear, and insecurity."
Without a foundation of unconditional love, parenting becomes quite a burden. We could be set free from this burden by reminding ourselves what unconditional love is. Campbell defines unconditional love as loving our child no matter what -- no matter his/her appearance, assets or handicaps. Yes, no matter how our child misbehaves! This does not mean, though, that we learn to like or tolerate even our child's misbehavior. What we must learn is to separate the behavior that we dislike from our child's personality or character.
The essence of unconditional love is also that of understanding our child's needs, especially as each child is born with legitimate emotional needs. These needs figuratively make up his/her emotional tank. One of Campbell's most memorable statements in his book goes: "Only if the emotional tank is full can a child be expected to be at his best or do his best."
Our child's behavior tells us the status of the tank. Now it is our responsibility as parents to fill our child's emotional tank. Being a parent, I am just so glad to be reminded of such a job. I will make it a point then to never look at parenting as a burden. It is rather a privilege! So it's not enough to often say "I love you" to our child. Even as I have already started my application since reading Campbell's book, I will continue to convey love to my child through physical contacts and focused attention.
3. Love and discipline cannot be separated, and that punishment is a very small part of discipline.
Unfortunately, this is the principle where most of us parents are rather confused. We have essentially equated discipline with punishment. It's often easy to punish a child out of anger or irritation. Nonetheless, Campbell writes that the first fact parents must understand in order to have a well-disciplined child is that making a child feel loved is the first and most important part of good discipline.
No one of course wants to raise a spoiled brat. Once we take time to read every point raised by the author, however, we will discover that his position is to engage in loving discipline where our first priority is filling our child's emotional tank. For when the tank is full, this is the best time when the child responds well to discipline.
Oftentimes a child only misbehaves when he feels insecure or when he wants to catch the parents' attention. This is the sign that his/her emotional tank needs to be filled. So we go back to unconditional love when we want to modify our child's behavior and to mold our children to be the kind of wholesome and secure teenagers that we want them to be.
Again it may sound idealistic. But as a mother I agree with the author that loving discipline is, indeed, the most effective method in training a child in mind and character to enable him to become a self-controlled productive member of society. Hence, I am adopting this concept of discipline. Each time I will be tempted to punish my child out of anger, I will first ask myself, "Where am I coming from?" If I am coming from frustrations or disappointments, I will think twice about punishing my child. I will also seek to understand where my child is coming from. As much as possible, punishment will be my last resort.
There is just no verse that aptly summarizes the message of this book than Ephesians 6:4 (TLB): "And now a word to you parents. Don't keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice."
The strength of the marital bond, unconditional love as the foundation of a solid relationship with a child and the principle of loving discipline, respectively, when implemented in every household, will prevent teenage delinquencies. At this point, I can only give two thumbs up to the author. His principles are radical yet very practical. The book has revolutionized my idea of child-rearing.