One of the proudest moments I can recall as a mother was when my eldest daughter was about 8 years old. She was participating in her first ballet concert, and she had a lovely costume on, consisting of a peasant type top and skirt, with a large tulle underskirt. I was watching her with pride, when, her skirt came off. My heart skipped a beat, and I readied myself to race to the backstage to comfort my darling daughter. But I didn’t need to, with the slightest of hesitation and a quick glance to the side of the stage; she stepped out of her skirt and continued to dance. The applause was tremendous when the dance finished, and I stood up and caught her eye and gave her the wonderful tear soaked smile of pure joy that comes from witnessing something very special.
This incident was a learning curve for me. My daughter was not dancing for medals or even pride, but for the joy of participating and the enjoyment she was getting from it. Children need to feel loved and valued for who they are, not for what they achieve. The term “unconditional love” describes a love that makes no demands on our children, but we can enjoy them for who they are. Giving our children opportunities to try things such as dancing, sport or other hobbies can be an enriching activity for them, but it is important not to let it become a stressful competition to achieve first place all the time. Gary Chapman writes; “Unconditional love is a full love that accepts and affirms a child for who he is, not for what he does. No matter what he does (or does not do), the parent still loves him…..Conditional love is based on performance and is often associated with training techniques that offer gifts, rewards, and privileges to children who behave or perform in desired ways.)* I encourage each of you to enjoy your children, and to help them develop a strong sense of self by accepting them and loving them unconditionally.
* Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell, The Five Love Languages of Children, p 17.