For Christmas, I’m building a fort in our side yard for my son. He’s 4 and I feel he should have a cool multilevel fort. He agrees.
He’s even given it a codename: CB1. Don’t ask me where the droid-like moniker came from. He doesn’t even watch Star Wars.
I feel like building this boy-sanctuary is the best way I can show my love for him this season. But there is danger in this project (and it’s not the old reclaimed pallets I’m using as lumber).
The danger is that it’s a multi-week project of love and a four-year-old’s behavior during that stretch of time quite frequently oscillates between naughty and nice.
During the “nice” times, it’s easy to want to work on my labor of love for him. But, during his bouts of “naughty,” it’s tempting to take lighter fluid, a match, and literally torch the whole thing.
Because when someone is not acting in a way we want, we tend to think thoughts that lead us to feel negative emotions. And when negative emotion enters the relationships, we feel a need to try and make the other person feel our bad feelings for them as a way of punishment or retribution.
This can be especially true when trying to parent a child who is acting "out of line." We may feel like we have to stop all love-driven actions so we are not rewarding them for bad behavior or being walked on. We scold, scream, or scathe to get them to feel how upset we are.
But the truth is, no one else feels the feelings you feel. Only you do.
Building CB1 for my son is my act of love for him. I am the one feeling love as I do the project. So I am the one truly benefiting the most from those feelings.
Stopping my act of love to “punish” him does not benefit either one of us. And it certainly doesn’t make me more of a parent. I would argue, it makes me less of one.
The greatest gift you can give yourself is to not withhold any act of love from your teen. Because love feels so much better than anger, annoyance, or resentment. Love leads us to behave as our best self.
Behaving as our best self still means we enforce consequences and boundaries as parents, but we do it from a place of love.
And that makes all the difference.