Loving vs. pleasing

Opinion: Columns

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By Melissa Ford

Coach - Personal & Business

What does it mean to really love your child? 

Some parents think loving their child means pleasing him or her. I've discovered that pleasing has nothing to do with love and everything to do with fear. All too often (and I've done it, too), parents will please their child to avoid tantrums, withdrawal of love or hearing those stinging messages, "I hate you," "You're mean," or "You don't really love me!" 

We've all tried to get along, let things slip, not rock the boat so our kids will love us, like us and want to spend time with us. We buy them things when we don't want to, we break rules, inconsistently enforce limits, or say "Yes" when we know the best response would be "No!" 

Of course, we want harmonious relationships with our children, but at what cost?

The best way to love our children is not to please because we're afraid of an unhappy response. Truly loving your child requires setting limits (and following through), establishing rules (and sticking to them), motivating your child to fulfill her responsibilities even when she doesn't want to, and standing strong with love when your son pitches a fit or gives you the icy treatment. 

The evidence that you love your child isn't whether your daughter likes you or your son agrees with your decisions. The real evidence is doing the hard part of parenting while continuing to love yourself, and your child, even when you fall out of favor.

Email: melissa@empoweredcoachingsolutions.com

Reader Comments

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Speedway from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2014 5:56 PM

There is something to be said about teaching more when they are young. Morals are learned by children by 5 years of age. Children are all different even within the same family. There is something to be said for birth order. Parents are there to love and nurture their little ones not to be their friend. You are their role model and they start out wanting to please you until they develop a mind of their own. Then it will be what you have taught them that guides them in the future.


Posted: February 6th, 2014 3:12 PM

I did say "should." But you're right, not always the case. Back to Ms. Ford's point, sometimes falling out of favor with your child is good for them so stick to your guns. Sometimes falling out of favor with your child is a warning sign that you're doing a horrible job.That was the reason I was questioning her advice.

OP Transplant  

Posted: February 6th, 2014 2:39 PM

"Nobody said parenting was easy." Spare me the condescension. I have adult kids who are well-educated and well-employed...fully functional adults. They needed a lot of limit-setting in high school, much more than they needed when they were younger. Your suggestion that kids need fewer limits in adolescence than in earlier years simply isn't always true. We joke now about our clashes when they were in high school, but it was no joke at the time.


Posted: February 6th, 2014 12:32 PM

Nobody said parenting was easy. Rules are important. But as they get older, kids should get better at following rules on their own and need less reminding. They make mistakes, but end up better able to function in the world when they turn 18.

Cherry Garcia from Shakedown Street USA  

Posted: February 6th, 2014 12:14 PM

Man, that sounds like a lot of rules man...

OP Transplant  

Posted: February 6th, 2014 12:03 PM

Well, them, my parents sucked, and so do I. Pretty much all of my friends also suck at parenting, as evidenced by the challenges they faced with their kids in high school. You're perfect, but that's gotta be lonely.


Posted: February 6th, 2014 11:47 AM

It depends on how well-adjusted the kids are. And the parents. If you're doing your job as a parent, by high school they should be independent, responsible, and ready for adulthood. I'm calling that most parents suck at parenting though. Tough love only gets you so far. It's always the strict parents who have the crazy, partying kids, right?

OP Transplant  

Posted: February 6th, 2014 10:23 AM

To Parent - So, as your kids got older, you had to set fewer limits? I infer, then, that by high school you had to set hardly any limits, and had almost no opposition! That is exactly the opposite of my experience, and, in fact, the experience of the many other parents I know. I'm calling BS on this one.


Posted: February 6th, 2014 7:08 AM

Parents shouldn't live in fear of upsetting their kids. But the relationship shouldn't be totally oppositional. That's not loving either. If parents grow with their children, those moments of having to set limits and fall out of favor are fewer and fewer.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: February 6th, 2014 12:27 AM

you make a great point. All too often I think we all see parents who live in fear of upsetting their children and the resulting tantrums. this seems to be especially true in two income households where parents don't get to spend as much time with their children as they like. children need boundaries. Boundaries in behavior and just as importantly boundaries in the parent child relationship. It cracks me up when i see parents that act as if they are in an equal partnership with there toddler

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