Are you familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? This theory highlights our need for physical and emotional safety. Included in a lower ring of needs are “love, acceptance, and freedom from fear.” Sadly, it took me many years of parenting to learn that although I treated it as such, “good behavior” is not part of Maslow’s hierarchy.
As a parent, I had a proclivity for addressing behavior issues as soon as I saw my child after school. “Did you follow directions? Let me see your folder. Did you turn in the missing work?” Looking back on this pattern, I am now convinced my task-master inclination sent the wrong message to my child.
Follow me on this. When my child made good choices, we smiled and moved on with our day. However, when problems occurred, a black cloud of disappointment and lecture ensued. [Unfortunately, the latter was the norm.] I didn’t mean to, but I wonder how often my son felt as though my love for him was conditional upon his behavior.
Parents, don’t ask your child about behavior immediately after school. When you do this, it puts your child [and in the car line, his or her teacher] in a very difficult position. You don’t want your child having a rough day and then dreading going home to face more of the same.
Remember… love? acceptance? freedom from fear? Address behavior issues, but do so later, such as after dinner or before bed. If our love is truly unconditional, our relationship trumps behavior, and our daily interactions should reflect this.