We all want to feel connected in our homes. We want to be close to our kids. This becomes difficult when the sense of being loved breaks down due to issues and conflicts. We can lose the desire to please each other. By contrast, when everyone is feeling loved, cooperation springs forth. Helping each other becomes easy because we feel loved and understood.
So what is love? Is it a feeling, an emotion, a connection, a commitment, positivity or an obligation? To work within a family structure love needs to contain an element of all of the above because feelings shift from day to day.
Let’s examine the nature of love through some helpful research and practical examples that will expand our understanding and appreciation of love.
Love comes easier to some than others. I have often found that the home we grew up in impacts the sense of love we develop in our homes. If we grew up with a sense of care and safety, it makes it easier to trust and love our family. The opposite is true if we encountered rejection, comparison, anger, trauma or neglect. The good news is that:
We have the ability to increase our capacity to love
One thing that was encouraging from the research on love is that we have the ability to increase our capacity to love. In an article entitled 10 Research-Based Truths About People in Love ,it says:
“We can increase our capacity to love. Research on self-compassion shows that practicing these strategies regularly can develop our brains to be more positive and empathetic in a matter of months. In fact monks who regularly practice compassion meditation have a different rhythm of brain alpha waves than beginning meditation adherents. Compassion meditations increase activity in brain centers connected with empathy and positive emotions, and decrease activation of our fear centers.”
Meditation can take on many forms. In my home it takes the form of prayer with my kids where we express concern and care for each other, those in need, and those hurting or facing struggles that my kids know. I have seen my kids grow in compassion expressing concern and care for friends, associates and even those whom they do not associate with regularly at school.
Developing a way to focus on compassion in your family pays huge dividends as kids grow older. They come to think and care about other’s situations and feelings rather than simply themselves.
Compassion is essential to staying connected as a family!
In many ways compassion is the glue that keeps love alive in our homes. Compassion for each other’s weaknesses and shortcomings allows us to stay close, connected and caring in spite of the ups and downs.
“I am a
At a Q&A time at an Influential Parenting event a mom said to me, “This has been amazing and I realize that I am a hypocrite.” I do not hear that level of candor very often so I said, “Thank you for being honest. Why do you think you are a hypocrite?” She said, “I am a youth leader in my church and when kids encounter issues and make mistakes, I see their regret, pain or sense of guilt and have compassion for them. I have found that you are right. This approach leads to open transparent conversations that lead to self-realization and learning with my youth group girls. But when I go home, I treat my kids the opposite. I get frustrated and come down on them.” Clearly the light bulb had gone on in her as to why her kids were defensive and distancing themselves from her and the church.
I am not sure why it is hard for parents to have compassion for their kids but I know it was hard for me when the parenting journey began. Is it difficult because:
- we feel our kids reflect on us
- we have lost confidence in our kids
- we desire to protect and control our kids
- we know our kids and their weaknesses all to well
- our parents jumped on us
One of the reasons I found that parents and kids lose compassion for one another stems from a lack of belief that we desire the best for each other and have the desire to succeed.
When parents unconsciously believe their kids desire to break the rules or pursue dangerous things, it leads to suspicion, monitoring and reaction. It was so eye opening and helpful to me to discover in my research with kids that they want to succeed and hate failure as much as we do. When we believe this about our kids, it makes it much easier to approach issues with love and compassion appealing to their desire to succeed and feel good about themselves. Parents who begin to approach their kids in this fashion often contact me and say, “ You were so right. My kid does desire to succeed and is making better decisions now that we are connected again. We were pushing them away without realizing it!”
Whatever the reason for a lack of compassion it seems to always lead to a confrontational approach, which does not lead to understanding and learning but rather defensiveness on the part of our kids. Our lack of compassion breaks down their care and love for us as
well as their desire to please us.
It is clear that the Good Shepherd had compassion on those who were struggling and making poor decisions. In Matthew it says He looked upon them with compassion like they were helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd.
When we show compassion to our kids, does it mean we are just letting them do what they want?
No. I have found the opposite to be true. It draws out their internal desire to please, be close to us and succeed.
Love keeps us close and gives us strength to stand and make good decisions.
When we stop trying to fix each other, believe the best in each other even when things get bumpy, compassion and love reign in our homes giving us the strength to make the right decisions. I would argue that when we begin to judge each other, try to control each other and are feeling misunderstood and unloved, we are far more likely to make the wrong decisions as parents and kids related to our relationships, families and choices.
This is the reason learning to believe the best in each other, trust and have compassion for one another are vital components of keeping love alive within our families. Love keeps us close and gives us strength to stand and make good decisions.