Clichés become clichés for a reason.
Valentine’s Day is just one example. When I was 9 years old, my mom asked me if I had a Valentine. I kept quiet because I didn’t have one. She took my silence for embarrassment, assuming I had a Valentine but was too shy to discuss it with her. I’ll never forget the joy she experienced in that assumption. For the most part, I believe that every mother wants her child to be loved and appreciated.
That was one of the first times I encountered someone else’s idea of love. It was fascinating to see the way it eased the tension in the car. No matter what sort of stress she had been experiencing from her day at work, she suddenly seemed lighter. I realised then that love was a powerful force. I began to see it as trust and faith in the future of all things. Love provides surrender for people who can’t let go.
But what I couldn’t see at the age of 9 was that everyone has a different idea about what love is. Everyone has a different idea about how it’s expressed, received and interpreted. While this realisation may have overwhelmed my 9 year old self, it now excites me to know that there are several billion unique perspectives on the matter of love.
So, how do we help our children discover their personal meaning of love? And how do we teach them that there are millions of people with their own ideas that we need to appreciate as well?
Seeing as though it’s Valentine’s Day, this is the perfect time to get into this discussion.
Before you launch into understanding what your child believes love is, when was the last time you asked yourself what it means to you? We’re often so busy being adults that we forget the little things that make our hearts flutter.
So, what does love mean to you?
How do you know when people really care about you?
What action can someone take to make you feel loved?
What needs of yours are met when you’re being loved? Is it connection, communication, service, fairness, consideration, being hugged?
Think about it. The answers will come.
How do we define something as big as love? Through behaviours.
We conceptualise ideas through the behaviours we see. We then interpret them to mean something. To one child a hug could mean love. To another child a hug could mean annoyance. Everyone is different.
This comes with a disclaimer: hold your judgements and comments. Nod your head. Be silent. These are great ways of accepting whatever it is your child is about to tell you. If they say something you disagree with, ask more questions until you can understand exactly what they’re getting at with their answers. Here are the questions you can start off with, but don’t be afraid to improvise and go “fishing” with the information they give you:
Gary Chapman wrote a great book about 5 different ways that people experience love. He called it The 5 Love Languages. If you haven’t read this book, it’s worth your time.
The more clarity you can receive, the more you develop yourself.
He hesitated for a moment…
“If I had known this two years ago, I wouldn’t have killed my best friend.”
Strong words and a harsh reality, but I love this story. It comes from Marshall Rosenberg’s masterpiece Non-Violent Communication. Marshall Rosenberg was a master at conflict mediation. He believed that essentially people were always trying to meet their needs with every action that they took.
He met a man in a Swedish prison who was angry about being neglected by the guards. Well, that was his superficial argument. Underneath it was really his fear that he wasn’t being equipped with the sort of skills he’d need in order to make a life for himself once he served his sentence.
Once Marshall got the man to voice his needs, the prisoner stopped and had a moment of painful clarity. He reflected on all the times he’d let his anger get ahead of him. He reflected on the reason why he had become so enraged that he had killed his best friend. He’d needed something in that moment that he just couldn’t express.
It’s a sad story, but it’s one that plays out in all of our lives. We may not kill people, but we hurt them and hurt ourselves. We’re always trying to meet our needs.
Needs are universal. There are variations of what we need, but when you can understand what your children need, there’s a renewed connection that is wonderful to experience.
Learning about their personal needs is about asking yourself questions while you’re speaking to them:
Yes, these questions are open ended and vague, but it’s all about the process. You’re going into discovering your child on another level with these questions. It’s like chipping away at the walls of a gold mine. Keep chipping. Eventually the answers will come, along with clarity so sudden and beautiful that you’ll kick yourself for not noticing it sooner.
Beginning to understand that other people see love as something completely different turns your child’s attention outwards. While you’re driving around or walking through a mall, bring their awareness to the people that pass them. A few simple questions to ask are:
What I love about the major holidays is that they give people a reason to actually see one other. Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc. These days give people a reason to look past themselves and see the beauty in the world around them.
So, why not let Valentine’s Day be the day where this ripple of appreciation starts? I’m going to be posting every day to my Instagram page(@bqprograms), looking for some new ways to interpret love. The hashtag will be #14ripplesoflove. Feel free to join. It’ll give us all the chance to look deeper into the world around us.
Until next time.
© The Brilliance Quotient 2018