Any moment you are not being compassionate as a parent, you are not loving your child.
The moment is always now, and how many moments, in the now, are you not compassionate with your child? No shame, no blame, just honest truth here: we are all human, and as humans we get triggered and we get angry or judgmental and we cut off compassion. In those moments, we are teaching our children as much as all of the other moments of their life.
So those moments, when we withhold love, either intentionally because they did something that our mind deems unlovable (confusing the behavior with their being) or unintentionally because we are triggered, what are we teaching them?
If we don’t discuss it afterwards and repair, we are teaching them that they are only worthy of love when they do things well. If they mess up and the consequences are bad enough, they aren’t worthy of love.
The result of which is fearing failure and not having a healthy self esteem.
I have spent many, many years working to unlearn these lessons — that even on my worst day, I am worthy of love, I am inherently good enough even when I fail, and in the face of my mistakes I take full ownership, learn all of the lessons possible, and repair wherever necessary… then, I move on.
The repair is key of course, because as humans, as parents, we will never be perfect… and each imperfect moment is an opportunity to teach our children how to handle their own imperfect moments… so we have the opportunity to use each of these moments as teachable ones, when we own it and speak to how we wanted to handle it differently next time, showing them the respect that they need to trust us.
The beautiful thing is that we have the power to address their mistakes with compassion and consistency, holding them to high standards and coaching them to learn what they can learn and try again next time, with love. And research shows we learn so much better when we are safe vs. when we are afraid.
The mantra I use, “I love you, I don’t love your behavior.”
When they are behaving in ways that we do not love, it is critical that we love them. Where ever they are. And teach them to love themselves, where ever and however they are.