We have spent a lot of time discussing how to identify and deal with “issues”. I have also mentioned it is imperative that your child not feel like an issue. It is the reason we have moved away from disability first language, but that is not enough to make a person feel like more than their “problem”.
In Of Bank Accounts and ATMs we discussed the currency of love. It can be challenging to find out what the currency is for the person you are interested in showing love to and find the resources to make a deposit.
Suppose your daughter wants a horse or your son a car. This may be out of your budget or you may not feel the child is ready for such a big responsibility. Suppose your son wants a puppy but your daughter is allergic? While you may be able to get a puppy for free clearly this is not a currency of love you can deposit.
The underlying commonality and foundation to all the love languages was alluded to in the post And The Award Goes To…, and that is listening deeply. This means hearing what is said and what is not said, noticing or paying attention, and validating would be included in listening deeply. In other words, listening so that the recipient of your love feels heard and understood i.e that they have successfully communicated and engaged in the most important of human activities, relationship. This is what will make them feel loved.
Mom’s naturally listen deeply with their (non-verbal) young children. The definition of love is giving. This includes all areas: shelter, food, clothing, protection, attention, affection, etc. This is precisely why it is known there is no love like a mother’s love. (Yes, there are exceptions but what this phrase really means is that there is no love like a primary caregiver’s love. This is why the primary caregiver is so influential. This is usually the mother since their care starts during pregnancy and typically continues throughout life.)
Even if right now you cannot give the gift, perform the service, give them a choice, etc. you can still validate the legitimacy of him/her wanting what s/he want. Where caregivers usually go wrong is in thinking that listening = obeying. Children crave your strength and consistency, but not rigidity. So, if you tell your child it is time to ______________ (you fill in the blank; it may include “brush your teeth/ clean up/ come eat/ go to bed/ wash your hands). It is okay for your child to say they don’t want to. More often than not they are testing you. They want you to be in charge. It is okay to ask “why don’t you want to?” and listen attentively. However, it is equally okay to say, “I understand, but you still need to.” The key here is that the child should feel heard while still feeling safe that the adult, not the child, is in charge. The concern of rigidity is that the above cannot always be your answer. It is legitimate in some cases to appreciate the child’s personal sensibilities and maybe modify the activity or change your plan. As an example, if your child says he does not want to brush his teeth and when asked “why?” answers because he does not like the toothpaste, you can offer that for today he can just brush with water and you will try and get a different flavor tomorrow.
Pick a family member or student that you find yourself saying “no” to all too often, whether directly or indirectly. See if you can switch that response to something more like, “That sounds wonderful for when (it’s warmer outside, your sister is no longer allergic, we win the lottery, you are 25…)