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TOPIC TITLE: Do You Love Your Child For Who They Are?
Created On 7/24/13 5:43 PM
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7/24/13 5:43 PM
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(Originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Mind, Body & Soul)

By Sarah Kahan

Harry Chapin who composed the popular song “Cats in the Cradle” wrote another song called “Flowers are red”. He describes a kindergarten teacher teaching her students that “flowers need to be colored red and green leaves are green and that there's no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.”

One precocious little boy attempts to color his flower using all the colors of the rainbow, but the teacher insists that it’s not done that way and puts him in the corner for not coloring his flower red. In order not to keep getting punished, he finally complies and recites back to her that “flowers are red green leaves are green there's no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.” When the little boy switches schools and has a new teacher, who encourages him to color flowers using all the colors of the rainbow, the little boy insists that “flowers are red green leaves are green there's no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen”.

Harry Chapin was inspired to write the song because of his secretary who told him about her son who brought his report card home from school one day. The teacher had written a note in the card saying: "Your son is marching to the beat of a different drummer, but don't worry we will soon have him joining the parade by the end of the term."

Is our goal as parents and teachers to strive for conformity? What if our child does not fit into the box that we have created for him at home and in school? What if our child has a different learning style? What if he likes to ask questions? Do we encourage him or discourage him from asking? Some children require a different set of rules that are more flexible and creative in order to bring out their self esteem.

As a therapist who works with parents of struggling teens, frequently children and parents lament the fact that they struggled because the environment at home and in school was too rigid. Any behavior that was considered non conforming was frowned upon. Often, feelings of rejection set in and acting out behavior followed.

It may seem to parents that their children are enjoying themselves when they are acting out, but the reality is they are miserable inside. In addition, the typical authoritative style of parenting is not effective anymore, and the friction at home increases. As parents become more frustrated and desperate to create a calmer environment at home, they begin to see a need to learn more successful parenting techniques.

Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist spoke of an unconditional positive regard. He stated that the individual needed an environment that provided them with genuineness, authenticity, openness, self-disclosure, acceptance, empathy, and approval in order for his clients to grow and make positive changes.

Picture some of the friendships you might have. Who would you rather open up to and share your secrets with? The friend who will listen compassionately and non judgmentally, or the friend who is prone to judge you? Our children feel the same way. They yearn to feel loved and accepted for who they are. If parents can show their children unconditional love, which goes something like this, “I love you no matter what you’re wearing, no matter what music you’re listening to, and I am curious to hear about your likes and dislikes because I care about you”.

The next time your child is listening to loud music and you feel like yelling at him to lower the volume, surprise him by asking him who his favorite band is? Don’t be discouraged if he does not initially respond to you favorably. The more we can get into a dialogue with our children in a curious non threatening way, the more successful we will be in building a relationship with them. It does not mean we agree with their behaviors but it invites them to share it with us and to foster a connection with them.

It’s when the child is most unlovable, that they need our love the most. The challenge is to provide that love despite them pushing it away, so I ask you again, do you love your child for who they are? If you are not sure that you can answer yes, maybe it’s time to allow our children to paint their flower with all the colors of the rainbow.

Sarah Kahan, LMSW provides psychotherapy to individuals, couples, adolescents and their parents. For further information please contact her at 347-764-9333 kahan.sarah@gmail.com.

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