The author’s children were acting this way about a week after they had moved into a new house. Campbell goes on to say: “Pat and I were with the boys night and day and talked to them frequently. But we were so intent on the housework that we never really gave them their rightful attention; we never made eye contact and seldom made physical contact. Their emotional tanks had run dry, and by their behavior they were asking, ‘Do you love me?’”
Yes! That’s what it is, really. Children wonder if they are loved. They don’t have the maturity to do the things adults do to seek love, so they act up and misbehave. We adults put our best foot forward to try to earn love in a rational manner. Children do not do this. “All children need and want love,” says Campbell, “But the way in which they seek it is immature and irrational” and “most behavior in a child is determined by how much he feels loved.”
“Is it fair then, or wise, to demand good behavior from a child without first making sure he feels loved? Without first filling his emotional tank?”
“The tendency is for parents to ask, ‘What can I do to correct this child’s behavior?’ Unfortunately, all too often this question leads initially to punishment. It is then difficult to consider the real needs of the child … We as parents should not continue to correct a child’s behavior until we have met his emotional needs.”
The words in this book are also convicting to me in regards to my kindergartener. She has been acting up lately and I have had this sinking feeling that I am not adequately communicating my love to her and that’s why. I feel that I have been ignoring her too much. She tends to get the least amount of my attention for three reasons: 1) she is very independent by nature (she makes her own peanut butter sandwiches), 2) everyone else seems to have more urgent needs (the older kids’ school work is harder and the toddler needs more physical help, like diaper changes.), and 3) she is quiet by nature and gets steam-rolled by all her extroverted siblings.
After reading How to Really Love Your Child, I have been much more mindful about reaching out to spend time with my low-maintenance kindergartener, to look into her eyes, pull her on my lap, kiss her sweet cheeks, and do simple activities with her. She still acts up but I’m starting to see more smiles and a more contented countenance.
On the surface, my kindergartener seems to be a more low-maintenance child, but that doesn’t mean that her needs for love and attention are any less. They are just less obvious sometimes.
Amy is a second-generation homeschooler and a native Californian, transplanted to the Midwest. She loves reading good books, exploring new places, and going on adventures with her kids.
Used with Permission. Originally published at http://blog.hslda.org/2016/03/23/attention-love-and-behavior/.