Time for mom

Can we love children wisely?


Interview with Dr. Ross Campbell, American psychiatrist, author of the world bestseller "How to really love a child" and many books on raising children. Irena Koźmińska, the founder and president of the "ABCXXI - All Poland Reads to Children" talks.

I.K.- Love is patient and polite, she is never jealous or envious, boastful or proud, she is not haughty, selfish or vulgar. These words from the letter to the Corinthians are the motto of your book. Why did you think that parents should be taught how to love children?

R.C.- Love is the basis of the relationship between parent and child. For a child to fully develop its potential, it must feel that parents love it and really care about it. If he doesn't feel it, trouble begins. For 30 years of psychiatric practice with children and young people, I have encountered the same problems all the time - my parents had difficulty passing on their love to children, and the children did not feel loved.

I.K.- So despite good intentions, skills were lacking ...

R.C.- Exactly. I believe that all parents need education in this area, because none of us is naturally prepared for it. Each child has specific emotional needs. I call it the emotional reservoir. For a child to develop normally, he must have a full emotional tank - filled with the unconditional love of his parents. It is love no matter what - regardless of the child's appearance, health, behavior or achievement. In other words, parents should love a child simply because it exists. Conditional love - for something - is very harmful to a child.

I.K - Unconditional love can be difficult for someone who has not experienced it or grew up without love. Can you change this pattern?

R.C.- Yes. You can learn it, you just have to remember that children are behavioral oriented, while we adults are verbal. If so, children must receive love expressed in their own language, i.e. through behavior. It can be reduced to four simple ways: loving eye contact, loving physical contact, child-focused attention, and love-based discipline.

I.K.- We are looking at our children. Is that not enough?

R.C.- Through eye contact you can convey all feelings - including anger or hatred. Usually, parents look their children in the eye when they reprove them or give instructions. If a child receives mainly negative eye contact, he grows up in the belief that he is not truly loved. If we want to convey our love for him, we should look at it as often and as friendly as possible.

I.K.- Why is this so important?

R.C.- The love of parents is the basis of our image of ourselves, what we think
and we feel about ourselves for the rest of our lives. In addition, children reflect what they get as a mirror. If they receive conditional love, shown only when they meet our expectations, they begin to render conditional love. What happens when a child enters teenage period? He begins to treat his parents in the same way - he behaves well or listens only when he receives something in return.

I.K.- The next way of showing love is physical contact ...

R.C.- It would seem that he is a very natural way of expressing love for a child, but it is not. Studies show that children receive physical contact - and not necessarily full of love - when needed, e.g. when dressing.
In addition, preschool girls receive five times more loving physical contact than boys, and this is the main reason that little boys have a lot more emotional problems.

I.K.- It is widely believed that boys should be treated more severely, they should not, for example, cry, because it is not male ...

R.C.- This view is completely culturally conditioned. There is no justification for the child's emotional needs.

I.K.- But isn't there a fear that by showing too much affection for a boy, he'll bring up a weak, effeminate man?

R.C.- The truth is quite the opposite. The more affectionate the father is towards the boy, the more the boy identifies with him
and the more confident he will feel as a man. Boys whose fathers are unpleasant and reject the child emotionally often become effeminate.

I.K.- What kind of physical contact is good for a child? This is a delicate field, because physical contact can cross the border of healthy behavior and turn into pathology.

R.C.- That's right. Speaking of physical contact, we don't necessarily need to understand it only as kissing or embracing, which of course is quite healthy if appropriate to the situation. But because we are talking about unconditional love for a child, which must be manifested all the time, we are talking about a very ordinary physical contact - a gentle touch or pat on the arm, hand, knee.

I.K.- I read that shortly after the war babies in American care institutions were dying en masse, despite hygiene, good nutrition and proper medical care. The problem ceased after employing special nannies to carry and hug toddlers. How often should we touch children?

R.C.- As often as possible. The manifestations of parental love are the parents' greatest gift that gives the child strength for the rest of his life. There are children who seemingly do not want physical contact, but they also need it. In this way, we can show love to such children at special times: when they laugh, when they are sick or sad. Each child also goes through various stages of development, in which it exhibits different tolerance to touch. The boys have periods of resistance to showing affection, but they like parenting or friendly patting by the parent. For girls aged 11-13 years, tactful and gentle contact from the father is extremely important, because on this basis the girl builds an image of herself and her gender identity. By accepting her, the father helps her daughter accept herself as a woman.

I.K. - Another way of transmitting love - attention focused on the child - seems to be more and more difficult to use in our busy life.

R.C- Yes. It's getting harder to be a parent. We are so busy and stressed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be loving towards another person, including children. Attention focused on a child means spending time with the child in such a way that they feel that they are the most important person in the world for their parents. The most effective is spending time alone with your child, using loving eye and physical contact - when, for example, we do different things together. But even in a crowd of people - by the way we look at them - we can make a child feel that he is someone special. Each of us needs this feeling. Each of us has an emotional reservoir.

I.K.- And wants to be noticed and appreciated, especially through parents.

R.C.- Of course. Parents are the most important people in our lives. I'll tell you about my father. He is a very difficult man. When I visited him a month ago, he said, "You know, Ross, I still ache and get angry and wonder why my mother was so mean to me. Why did she never love me? At the age of 86! Parents have the greatest impact on our lives - greater than anyone and anything else.

I.K. Returning to your concept of the emotional tank - if the adult tank is empty, where does it get emotional energy to transfer to the child?

R.C.- We should do everything to be able to meet the needs of our children. The basis is caring for the sustainability and harmony of our marriage, as well as for our own physical, emotional and spiritual health. But even when our emotional reservoir is not full, we can effectively fill our children's reservoirs. Because the ways to show love for a child are so simple
and express themselves in behavior, if we really care about the child, we can always show him love.

I.K.- The problem is that when a parent returns home tired or stressed after work home, contact with the child is often the last thing he wants.

R.C.- That's right and that's why he doesn't. But he makes a terrible mistake and harms not only the child, but also himself. When the child's emotional reservoir is full, it is not difficult to keep it in this state - it requires little effort and time. So let's say that the father returns home and dreams only to rest, and the child comes and in an immature, annoying way demands attention. It can bother him so much throughout the evening and it finally ends in a row. And if his father had made eye contact from the beginning,
physical and your attention, a much shorter time would be enough to fill the baby's tank, make him feel happy and take care of his affairs. Let's also look to the future. Parents who were still too busy or tired pay disproportionately a lot of their time, frustration, money when a child falls into drugs, goes to a sect or gang, is depressed, runs away or tries to commit suicide. Then they are forced to take care of him.

I.K.- Often with poor results ...

R.C.- Unfortunately. I remember that when I returned home exhausted after a day of work in the office and wondered how to find energy to meet the needs and solve the problems of my own children, I always told myself - "Campbell, every sixth child goes to juvenile court. It would be a tragedy for the whole family if any of your children were there. If you don't want this to happen, don't think about yourself now, but give them what they need. "