Thursday, February 26, 2009


Children need love: More than ever

The need to be loved is an essential biological phenomenon. Everybody needs it to the fullest extent. In that sense, it is of essence to note that children do need to be loved, more than ever, not only to impress upon them that they are precious but also to help in their development, to nurture a healthy outlook on life and to eventually transform them into decent, caring human beings. In fact, they need it more than others and parental love needs to be there always for them, quite unconditionally.

Children need love and protection in the first instance as they are vulnerable, helpless little creatures who are not capable and equipped to look after themselves. Children have not yet developed into full maturity as to know the ways of doing things for themselves and taking care of themselves and situations. An unloved child will feel neglected and not wanted. They will feel unworthy of love and will grow as disturbed individuals unable to cope with the necessities of everyday life. Such children would not be able to manage their life or handle different situations wisely. They are wounded and hurt, and the worst part is that they may think it is their fault. They live in fear; lack confidence, suffer from insecurity and fear the unexpected. They cannot therefore do well in school or indeed do anything right as fear has overtaken their lives. They lack respect for themselves and thus lack respect for others. They learn to lead a life of a survivor and to fend for themselves at a very early stage in their life. The only way they know how is to hide in a corner and perhaps behave aggressively with outbursts of anger.

Love gives children the stability and peace of mind that they need. They know that their basic needs are met. They know that there will be food on the table when they come back home from school and they know that mum or dad will meet them with a smile and hug them when they see them. They know that there is someone who will help them with their homework, bathe them, read a book with them, play with them and pray with them before they tuck them into bed and give them a big hug with a big "I love you". They know who they can turn to in times of trouble and they know who they can ask questions from and go to whenever they want to. They know that someone will always be there for them, to help and support them and love them unconditionally.

Children that feel loved and protected are happy children. They achieve well and interact effectively with others. They in turn will pass the love they received onto others. They will develop natural moral values without any struggle. They will know how to be kind, helpful and supportive and as such they will not be attention seekers. They will not have to struggle making friends as friends will naturally come to them. They only have to be themselves and will not struggle in changing who they are in order to please others. These children will grow up to be strong, respectful, self-confident, wise and reliable adults. They will develop a healthy lifestyle and make sound choices in their life. They will lead a normal, if not an extraordinarily prosperous and successful life. They will build sound relationships and form strong family bonds as they pass on the love and protection they have received as children. The legacy of love and unity will then be passed down from one generation to another quite easily.

Children need both to see the actions and hear the words to reassure them of their parents’ love. A big birthday gift from a parent who never says, "I love you" can feel like a bribe to a child. Similarly, when a parent forgets to pick up the child from school or doesn’t plan anything special for the child’s birthday, the child may hear an "I love you" from that parent as empty words. Many parents assume that their children "just know" that they love them when this is not always the case. Some people believe that the most important thing to give a child is the "best education money can buy". Although a sound education is extremely important parents should also share with them a sense of values, the necessity for ethics and encourage their curiosity to learn and explore on their own. Once we have given our children a solid foundation and the basic knowledge and tools they need, we need to let go and trust them to create their own lives, make their own mistakes, have their own successes and follow their own destiny. We need to let them blossom on their own. For many parents the greatest challenge is to learn how to give guidance and at the same time allow their children to be themselves, to have their own lives and follow their own dreams. Being loved also would help them to deal with the daily trials, tribulations and disappointments in life as well as savouring the triumphs of life with humility.

Even more important than giving a child a proper formal education is to foster the child’s self-esteem. A child with a great education who lacks a sense of self-confidence and self-trust will rarely become a happy adult, whether or not he or she is "successful" in the material sense. However, a child who has grown to love himself or herself, will be motivated to learn or do whatever it takes to be successful and happy in life. As we must learn to love ourselves, so too must we encourage our children to love themselves, to trust their instincts and intuition and to know and express "the beauty they possess inside". If we give our children love that is unreserved and unconditional, then they feel worthy of love and this becomes a key ingredient for them to develop a sense of self-love. Unconditional love is the greatest gift we can give to our children.

Quite contrary to the concept of showering love on children, there are certain practices that are advocated by some which may have adverse outcomes later on in life. Some people promote the theory that babies should be allowed to "cry it out" till he or she stops. They believe that children would ultimately learn that crying would not get them anywhere. This is certainly not a desirable practice as it induces a feeling of being not cared for in the youngster. Children who cry and even those who have temper tantrums can be distracted by a variety of ways. This is one component of the art of good parenting. In a different way, parents who allow even little children to share in the daily activities like working in the kitchen, washing the car, tidying the house etc do indeed induce a warm sense of attachment and love in children. These actions would make them feel that they are a real part of a happy family.

It is noteworthy that in the case of some parents, expressing love to children in words, hugs and kisses is difficult not only because of their temperaments but also because they themselves were perhaps brought up without these things. They have no model for outward expressions of love and do not know where to begin. These people need to learn the art of giving love to their children gradually. It cannot be done overnight and will need commitment to the cause. Starting with words, progressing to gestures and finally to actions is probably the way forward for these people.

Even when children have to be disciplined, they need to know that this is done out of love, that they are being protected from being hurt and perhaps hurting themselves. They need to be shown that it is for their own good and are designed to make them better people in the long run. This is the main reason why many authorities now frown upon all forms of physically painful corporal punishments, child beatings, canings and for that matter, all forms of mental and physical violence targeting children. There is very good scientific evidence that physical and painful punishments are detrimental in the long run. They do not achieve any of the goals that they were originally designed to accomplish. In fact they do more harm than good. It is an axiom in modern child rearing that there is no place for such forms of punishments. The age old adage "spare the rod and spoil the brat" is not tenable anymore. There are other forms and ways of disciplining children. Preference should generally be given to those forms that do not include any type of physical punishment. Withdrawing certain facilities and amenities are definitely better than those that include physical violence. Perhaps the best forms are those that include rewards and incentives for achieving certain goals or reforming their wayward ways.

The writer would appreciate some feed-back from the readers. Please e-mail him at or write to him at the following address :-

Dr, B.J.C.Perera, Consultant Paediatrician, Asiri Medical Hospital, 181, Kirula Road, Colombo 5.

Upali Newspapers Limited, 223, Bloemendhal Road, Colombo 13, Sri Lanka, Tel +940112497500

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