Author and therapist Dan Allender states this in his book How Children Raise Parents:
“Beginning with the first day of life outside the womb, every child is asking two core questions: ‘Am I loved?’ and ‘Can I get my own way?’”
It can be a relentless and overwhelming task for parents to answer these questions directly and indirectly on a daily basis. However, when we consider the artful dance between these two ongoing questions, it’s important to view them more as an invitation rather than something to be done. Children need both closeness and autonomy. Closeness and relationship bring a sense of safety, letting them know they are cared for and protected. Autonomy expresses their search for uniqueness and meaning. Closeness says, “Am I loved?” and autonomy says, “Can I get my own way?”
Practical ways to live out these Invitations of Love and Limits
– Get on the floor and play with your children. Play is the natural language of children. Being on their level is an invitation to enter their world. Slow down your day and spend time playing.
– Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Children invite us to grow and many times in very indirect ways kids are asking things like, “Will you cry with me?” or “Will you hold me?”
– Listen to understand rather than listening to answer.
– Share simple, healing messages with your children:
I am here. I understand.
I hear you. I care.
– Be Consistent. Strength in parenting is displayed in being consistent with limits and boundaries. The more consistent you can be, the more your child knows what to expect. Along with the answer of “Yes, you are loved,” the answer “No, you cannot get your own way” provides a message of safety, care, and security that all children need to know.
Interestingly enough, adults ask the same questions that children do. Allender states:
“What they deeply crave is the same core desire we find in our own hearts. As we listen, we will learn to ask the same questions of the God who has made us and called us to be parents.”
As you parent and navigate this dance, we pray that you will find strength and mercy to answer these invitations, connect in sweet ways with your children, and reveal to them a place of safety and security in providing a whole picture of love and limits.