The psychologist Carl Rogers suggested in the 50’s that merely loving your children wasn’t enough. You have to love them unconditionally – never for what they do or perform, but because they are themselves. I am all with this, as my little boy Neo just turned 4 weeks old, but as Alfie Kohn argues in NY Times, many popularized methods like that of Dr Phil or the Supernanny Jo Frost are propagating to conditionally give them your love and attention. Meaning you would show them more love and affection when they behave as seems appropriate to you, as a parent.
Seems like bull****, smells like bull****, but is it bull? What can we learn from science?
A study conducted on Israeli students and mothers indicated that Firstly, the children who felt pressure to perform tended to resent and dislike their parents in the long run. Second, these youngsters were more likely to say that the way they acted was often due more to a “strong internal pressure” than to “a real sense of choice.” They often felt guilty or ashamed.
In a companion study the same Israeli researchers interviewed mothers of grown children:
Those mothers who as children, sensed that they were loved only when they lived up to their parents’ expectations now felt less worthy as adults. Yet despite the negative effects, these mothers were more likely to use conditional affection with their own children.
It seems we as parents form the basis of how our children value themselves and their actions toward others. We would need to protect both them and future generations from our sense of peace and quiet. I you cannot handle your child – get help! There is always someone you can learn from, but I would not start off my research into the child’s mind with Dr Phil.