Occasionally we get a notice from the hank notifying us that we have overdrawn our account. We have noticed that it always happens to us when something big is occurring, like going on vacation. One time as we walked out the door for our vacation, we grabbed the mail. We opened the notice from the bank and discovered an error of several thousand dollars. That led to total panic. All other activities came to a halt. Frantically we called the bank and then went over there for a personal visit. A big deposit had been recorded incorrectly. We worked through the process of fixing the problem. This problem distracted me (Carol) so much that when we finally resolved it and got into the car to leave for vacation, I left my wallet at the house. Having to do without the wallet reminded us of the problem during the entire vacation.
The lesson from the deficit: Don't overdraw your account. Even better, make enough deposits to ensure plenty of margin in the account. If we overdraw, then we not only have to make the extra effort to fix it, but sometimes we also have to live with the frustrating consequences it typically always causes.
Opening an Unconditional Love Account
Our children's lives parallel that account. They have a need for security and significance that come from unconditional love. When a deficit occurs in their lives, that threatens their security and significance, and then they panic. It's not hard to spot it when their account gets overdrawn.
* They seek attention
* They want to control the situation.
* They get revenge (usually by clobbering a sibling!).
* They resist and rebel.
* They turn to their friends.
* They get depressed.
Only through communicating unconditional love can we make deposits in their account and get them out of a big deficit.
Daily deposits of loving communication bring very positive results. Our children--
* have positive self-worth.
* have a willingness to obey.
* are less drawn to peer pressure.
* develop openness and honesty.
* Set a pattern for healthy communication as they become more independent.
The most positive result, however, is that they will grasp God's love more easily because of the concrete example of love they have experienced. Many parents fall into the trap of expressing "if" love to their children. That means they love them if they perform properly. For example: "I love you if you get good grades? Other parents get trapped into expressing "because" love. For example: "I love you because you are beautiful/handsorne." Sometimes we express that form of superficial love without even knowing it. Every time we do it, we undermine our children's sense of security and significance. Yet God desires for us to express "in spite of" love to our children. "I love you in spite of your attitude right now." That kind of love is totally unconditional. It comes from God to us, then through us to our children. It encourages our children's sense of security and significance. "In spite of" love from us prepares our children's hearts to receive God's love for them.
Communicating unconditional love to our children creates closeness and emotional warmth with them so that when we have to say "no" or discipline them, we can draw from a surplus account. As parents we are responsible to make the deposits that keep our children's accounts in the black until they learn for themselves how to let Jesus make deposits. Even then our children need consistent deposits of unconditional love from their parents.
Ross Campbell, child psychologist and author of How to Really Love Your Teenager, reinforces how critical communicating unconditional love really is by using the word picture of a gas tank instead of a bank account.
A teenager will strive for independence in typical adolescent ways—doing things by himself, going places without family, testing parental rules. But he will eventually run out of emotional gasoline and come back to the parent for conditional maintenance—for a refill.
During times when a teenager is striving for independence he may upset his parents to such an extent that the parent over-reacts emotionally, and usually with excessive anger. This emotional overreaction, if too excessive or frequent, make it extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible, for the teenager to return to his parents for emotional refills. Then if parent-child communication is broken, a teenager may turn to his peers for emotional nurture. What a dangerous and frequently disastrous situation this is! [Ross Campbell, How to Really Love Your Teenager, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1981, p. 27, 30]
Using the Checkbook
Before making deposits in our bank account, we need to know how the checkbook works. In our relationship with our children, unconditional love is our asset in the bank and our communication skills are the checkbook. These skills create a channel through which our love can flow. Our communications checkbook allows us to disperse love, acceptance, affirmation, physical warmth, and availability. In order to do that we must be aware of our need to move from superficial levels of communication to deeper ones.
Communication experts point out five levels of communication that can move us from surface responses to intimate sharing.
1. Clichés. "How are you?"
2. Facts. "What did you eat for lunch?"
3. Ideas. "What do you think about that?"
4. Feelings. "How do you feel when that happens?"
5. Intimate sharing. "What is on your heart about that?" This level of conversation occurs only in those few relationships in which a person can open his or her heart and share deeply.
Some people find it easier than others to move from one level to another level. But if we want to communicate deeply into our children's lives, then we must make
significant love deposits to reach the level of most intimate sharing. All families progress to the first three levels. Others may move to Level 4. But only families surrounded by unconditional love enjoy the opportunity to reach Level 5. C3,
Excerpts taken from Ignite the Fire by Barry and Carol Sr. Clair, Chariot Victor Publishing. This article originally appeared in the Cook Communications newsletter.