The Differences Between Unconditional Love & Conditional Love

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Can we really show our kids, unconditional love? I mean, we do love them unconditionally, right? Well, we, as parents, actually do and say many things that portray love with conditions. Before I explain why it’s important to show your children unconditional love versus conditional love, I need you to understand what these concepts really mean.

Conditional love is affection shown as a result of certain qualities, attributes or actions beneficial to you. For example, conditional love can be the praise you give your children when they put away their toys in the way you asked. Unconditional love is affection shown regardless of whether you benefit from or approve of certain qualities, attributes or actions. An example of this is a positive reaction to your child’s misbehavior. Unconditional love shines through when you discipline your child calmly while trying to understand the reason for their misbehavior rather than scolding them.

Now that you know and understand unconditional love and how it can benefit you and your children, you should also understand how important it is in developing a healthy relationship with your children. You can start showing your kids unconditional love more often by:

Telling them that you love them unconditionally and say it often!
Your children should have no doubts that you love them unconditionally, regardless of what they do and say. For example, if your child fails a test, loses a game, or lies to you, still show them that you love them in the way you discipline them.

Identifying a positive in their negative traits
Find a way to spin your child’s negative behavior into a positive attribute and teach and encourage them to foster that positive attribute. If your child shows bossy behavior, you can encourage them to be more of an understanding leader who acknowledges the emotions of others rather than being pushy and aggressive.

Being empathetic with them
Listen to your child and try to understand problems from their perspective. Show them that you understand their point-of-view and that you love them unconditionally.

Understanding and accepting their faults and mistakes
It is super important to show your child how much you love them, especially when they make mistakes. You need to ensure they know that you love them unconditionally regardless of their faults and the mistakes they make. This subliminally teaches your child the importance of forgiveness.

Offering them unconditional love as often as you can
This can actually encourage them to better understand forgiveness and not hold grudges. Your child needs to feel and know that your love is unconditional. Giving your children unconditional love can create a stronger bond between them and yourself, make them feel more secure and loved, and improve their brain development and overall well-being

Podcast Ep. 166 Unconditional Love vs Conditional Love

On the flip side, there are ways that parents can display the opposite of unconditional love, which is conditional love. Conditional love can eventually become toxic and ruin the relationship between you and your child. Parents must be careful to not:

  • withhold affection from their children because they didn’t properly do something that was asked, like chores;
  • associate praise to their children’s achievements but solely disappointment to their losses
  • show that their child’s behavior puts them in a bad mood or lessens their affection
  • expect their children to be who they want them to be and not who they are.

Still, parents need to be mindful of the blurred lines between unconditional love and conditional love. An overload of positive reinforcement to your child may turn into conditional love and develop some form of symbiotic manipulation of praise. This morphs love into attention. You have to be sure to express that you’re praising them and not just the behavior.

In truth, we’ve experienced some conditional love from our own parents. It’s up to us to break the generational curse and ensure that our children receive unconditional love versus conditional love. This may take some introspection on your part to observe and identify your varying reactions to your children’s behavior, attributes, actions, and achievements.

Children need to feel that their parents’ love is unconditional. While it may not always be easy, especially for dads, to show positive emotion towards misbehavior, it’s very important to practice a constructive response rather than a critical or harsh one. At the end of the day, we must love the children we have, not the children we want. Unconditional love enables children to grow up with a great impression of healthy familial relationships, and pass on this functional family dynamic to their family.

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