THERE are two aspects of loving unconditionally. The first is about comparing our children with no one but themselves. The second is to recognise, acknowledge, respect and most importantly include their strengths and weaknesses by getting them to co-create whatever plans we may have for them.
Each child, like everyone else, is different and unique in his/her own ways. We’re not in the position to compare them against others. In fact, we shouldn’t even compare ourselves with others. To do so would be a great injustice to the individual.
I know I am guilty of this as well. It’s so easy to give in to the temptation of comparing your job, house or car with others. And the same goes for the children. Sometimes, and quite unintentionally, we compare their achievement (usually lack of) with another successful one. We all know how painful and heartbreaking this is and will almost always lead to resentment and anger. A lose-lose situation, don’t you think? Nothing positive would be achieved and relationships would be damaged.
If you really have to compare, a better strategy would be to compare his/her current performance versus his/her previous one. This will not only motivate them to do better but also enable tracking of their progress. When this is done in a loving manner, many other benefits would follow. This is something I’ve discovered with my family.
One of my children used to struggle with his grades during the fourth and fifth year of primary school. We took note of his grades and challenged him to perform just one notch better the next time. For example, if he scored 70s in his Mathematics, then we’d ask him to target 80s the next time.
We avoided the urge to compare his grades with his peers or close relatives whom we knew were doing well. True enough, his grades started to show improvements over the months. By the time he got to Year 6 (the UPSR year), he was scoring 90s in his Mathematics and other subjects. We were thrilled and thanked God we didn’t choose the path of comparing his performance against others.
Just a note of caution: Loving unconditionally doesn’t mean we give up on working on whatever improvement plans we may have for them. It just means that we work together to create the plan rather than enforcing it blindly onto them. By working together with the children, we can take into account unique factors that they may have and respecting their needs and wants as well. They’ll thank us for that and be more than willing to execute the plan successfully.
For example, parents who take the trouble to include their children when planning their vacation would get much better cooperation and enthusiasm than parents who just buy the tickets and go without any involvement from their children. This may be a simple example but it does highlight the difference between a good plan and a poor one, and whether it’d be a success or failure.
The sooner we realise this, the better it will be. We allow them to do what they love and in return, we get to exercise our vision of “what’s good for them” wisely. Plans can be made together and hence have a much greater chance of success.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well or badly your child is performing. What’s more important is the plan that we have for them. It’s also about finding what they’re good at and what excites them. Each one is different and no one plan will fit all. It’s up to the parents’ wisdom and ability to find this out and work together with the children to find a plan that’s exciting for them.
Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces. Reach him at [email protected].