Green salad

What’s Better: To Be Loved or To Feel Loved?

When you give a gift to a loved one, are you really giving it to that person – or to yourself?

Imagine your husband came to you and said,

Hey, honey, I’ve been thinking about how you keep saying that we don’t spend enough time together, so we’re going to fix that.  I bought us a pair of season tickets to the Jets!  I know you hate football, but hey, we can spend time together like you wanted!

Your husband

If you really did hate football, how would that make you feel?  Would you believe this was really a gift for you?  Yeah . . . no.

Knowing that your daughter thinks she looks terrible in orange, would you give her an orange dress – just because orange is your favorite color?  Would you buy your family a karaoke machine if they all hated to sing?  Of course not.

When we give someone a gift, it makes sense to pick something that person would like.

Deal with fewer tantrums in 3 days (or less!)

Love is multifaceted

Love is multifaceted.  Part of love is meeting the loved one’s true needs.  But loving isn’t just the intellectual activity of knowing that you are doing the best for that person.  The emotional aspect of love dictates that the loved one also feels loved.  When it comes to meeting someone’s needs, we have to meet them where they are.

My husband has never been a cooked green vegetables guy.  I’m not going to insist that he eat his steamed peas and broccoli.  I’m his wife, not his mother.  Yet I know he should eat greens.  So what do I do?  I find other ways to meet this need by serving fresh salads that he enjoys.  (If you ever invite us over, please consider serving a green salad.  Otherwise, his cooked green vegetables will discreetly end up on my plate. I can even bring the green salad; just let me know. Thank you.)

Our children’s needs

This works the same way with our children’s developmental needs.  When we meet those needs, they come to feel loved and form a deep sense of security in our parent-child relationship.  This in turn fosters mutual respect, which is the foundation for a happy family life.

The first step in meeting our children’s needs in a way that makes them feel loved is knowing what those needs are in the first place.

How do we do that?

Nice for us – we don’t have to figure it out.  Maria Montessori did all that work for us.  She spent decades of her life observing children, and in the process, pinpointed those specific needs at the different stages of development, from birth to around age 24.

The second step is then meeting those needs in a way that our children can feel loved, even through the correction.

One powerful way to do this is to not correct while angry.  You may have to tell your child, “I’m too angry right now to discuss this.  We’ll talk about it after I’ve calmed down.”  And be sure to follow up later that day or the next.

Another wise practice is to let the correction be over once it has been given.  Don’t nag and bring it up in the future, unless the offense happens again that makes a repeat correction necessary.

Is it too hard? And is it worth it?

You may be thinking that it’s too hard to learn what our children’s needs are and how to meet them.  Truth be told, mostly everything worth learning is hard at first.  But the more time and effort we invest in learning how to do a skill, the more quickly that skill becomes second nature. This is true for riding a bike and raising children.

A child who is loved – but never feels it – may grow up to be responsible but resentful and unhappy.  And a child who only feels loved – but isn’t truly loved in the intellectual sense – will likely end up irresponsible, immature, and self-centered.

Needing to feel loved isn’t being superficial.  Let’s be honest.  Would you have married someone who didn’t make you feel loved?  Probably not.  Feeling loved is part of what propels us to embrace the married vocation with all its crosses. Developing strong relationships with our children works the same way.

What, then, is better for your child: to be loved or to feel loved?

The short answer is both.

This win-win situation means raising your child in a loving way (making hard decisions at times that your child doesn’t like), while making him feel loved at the same time.  The both-and approach means meeting your child’s developmental needs in a complete way.

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