As a Montessori teacher, I helped parents and children during the time of settling in…
Today I want to chat with you about LOVE!
I'm reading this book "The 5 Love languages of children" by Gary Chapman. The content has totally reframed the way I show my love to my children, especially to my oldest, who is now a preteen!
Maria Montessori said, "Of all things, love is the most potent." That quote is taken from her book "The Absorbent Mind."
It is taken from the last chapter "Love and its source, the child," where Maria Montessori explained that what unites us as a species is our love for the child. What brings people together is our desire to educate and to protect the child. She also said "whatever be our political or religious affiliations, we are all near to the child, and we all love him, it is from this love that comes the child's power for unity". She urged us to study the implication of our love for the child. The whole of mankind shares a deep love for the child so how can we build upon this love to give the best to our children, to nurture them in the way they need?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
She ended the chapter by saying, "The study of love and its utilization will lead us to the source from which it springs, The Child". That is the path that man must follow in his anguish and his cares if, as his aspirations direct, he wishes to reach salvation and the union of mankind.
For sure, when my children were born, I felt immense love for them. The kind of everlasting love, sacrificing love that I have never felt before. I know, deep down in my heart, that I would sacrifice my own life for them. Obviously, we hope it would never happen! But I also felt from the minute they were born that love was very different from the love I had for my husband or for my own parents.
But it's not enough to love our children! They must feel that we love them. They must understand how much we love them.
That love, that connection is the foundation of our relationship with them. What would be the point if we didn't love them, if we didn't like spending time with them and enjoying each other company in a loving relationship?
It's the same in a marriage, right? If we don't communicate if we don't feel loved, what is the point?
The more we are connected, the happier we all are! In fact, nearly all our children's behaviour issues can be explained by a lack of connection or by a misunderstanding of our child's love language.
It's not that we don't love our children, it's that we don't express that love in a way that they can understand.
My daughter is a preteen, and this last year has been challenging for our relationship. I may have years of experience as a parent and parenting coach, but it's the first time I am the mother of a preteen! Give me ten toddlers and their tantrum, I can manage, but the mood swings and "my friend's parents let them have a phone" is trickier to handle.
On top of that transition, I was also feeling her being less responsive to my affection.
I am a huger.
I give cuddles to my children and husband all the time.
I have enjoyed the closeness of the early years so much: I loved breastfeeding, and cosleeping.
But as soon as my daughter became physically independent, she was less in demand of that physical contact.
At first, I assume that it's way part of growing up.
We were connected on many other levels, especially doing things together and long chats.
As her brother has grown too, I notice the difference between the two of them. He is like me, cuddly and always next to me.
That's when it stroked me!
Each of them needed a different kind of love. I was easily connected with my son because he was like me on many levels. It was flawless for me to show him my love.
My daughter has her own fantastic personality, but she needs another kind of love, and I persisted showing her mainly the kind of love I knew best.
Thankfully, she has 2 parents, and my husband is more like her and communicates with her very well. And we had our quality time together, which was our way to show love to each other.
But let's say that this year, my available time for my children has shrunk at the same time as their desire to do their own things, having their own friends has increased.
Sometimes, it took us months to notice an issue, and it's ok! This story is ending well, I promise you and I want my own experience to serve you!
Looking for an answer and a way to connect with my preteen, I remembered that book "the 5 love language".
I first came across it for my own marital relationship. I've been with my husband for 20 years, and we have evolved and changed so much over the years! At the beginning of our relationship, we can be very passionnel, emotional, and we can get it all wrong!
Then we become wiser, and we start to be really ourselves, accepting the other as he is and really starting to communicate.
So to cut a story short, we definitely know that we express our love in two different ways, and we make massive effort to make sure the other one feels loved the right way.
But we are grown-up, with a higher brain and we can forgive, understand, and delay our needs and so on.
Our children are immature and depend on us, so it's up to us to grow, learn, and do better with them. We cannot just expect them to cope with our personality, our flaws, our emotions, and to deal with it. We have to make an effort to love them the way they need.
Since this revelation, I have made a conscious effort to love both my children the way they prefer.
So lets me give you a quick run through those 5 Love languages:
This language seems evident and straightforward. Hug and kisses are natural for the majority of us, but it doesn't stop there. Massage, carrying your child, wrestling, tickling, and being physically close in the sofa are ways that we express that physical touch. If your child is continually grabbing your leg, touching you as you come near him or even hitting you in his most challenging time, that may be linked to a lack of love expressed that way. If you are the kind of parents who has difficulty cuddling your children, the author suggests that you start with yourself. Oddly enough, it's something I teach to the children in the yoga class. Giving yourself a cuddle or giving yourself a massage release the same hormones that are released when we receive or give a cuddle.
This is my primary love language, and the one I find the easiest to speak!
"In communicating love, words are powerful. Words of affection and endearment, words of praise and encouragement, words that give positive guidance and all" the author said.
Of course, you may say "I love you" to your child but the way you describe your love, how proud you are of their achievement, the sweet little words that you have only for them, will be the best way to communicate your love if its' your child primary love language.
The other day, I was in a shop, and a mother was browsing the aisles while her toddler was exploring on her side. I could hear the little girl showing stuff to her mum and the mum responding in the kindest tone "that's lovely honey!", "I see you behind the shelf", "come next to mummy sweetheart". The chatting was constant and so warm and kind. It was lovely to witness.
Clearly, their primary love language was "words"!
This is one way my daughter appreciates to be shown "love". She shows her love that way too. She used to write me post-it notes all around the house, and she loves a good chat. I have started to make time for those long chats, and no matter what, when she comes with a question, I stop everything and take time to sit down and chat. I send her loving text message on her phone (one way to make that phone useful for our relationship), and that has made a significant impact on how we are connected.
Do you have a child who nags you until you read a story, play a board game, or set up their train set? While you are trying desperately to pay the bills, write that email or cook the dinner? After 20 minutes of constant nagging, you may snap, shout or give up and play with them, frustrated that whatever you wanted to do hasn't been done.
You have a child who wants to spend time with you! She wants your "undivided attention," and she will not give up until she has it, even if it's negative attention.
Such children will display "attention-seeking behaviour" and will repeat scenarios that put them in trouble to be punished by you if needed.
But most of the time, if you are mindful of giving your full attention to your child first, you will have plenty of time to do what needs to be done after that time.
Typically, during the holidays, I will focus first on the children. We would plan an outing in the morning then they will be happy to spend the afternoon entertaining themselves. On the other hand, if I told them I need to finish this first, it generally doesn't end well. They will nagger me, and they will pick up a fight with each other.
Quality time is a love language that we all share in our family. Spending time together and sharing some specific activities, drawing, family yoga, and movie nights for example, is what full our love tank!
Reading about this one, I felt it weird that it was part of some ways to show our love to our children.
Showing my love by offering gifts feels a bit like a quick excuse for not being around, or it will make my children materialist and consumerist but keep reading, it's much more meaningful than that.
"The giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love, at the time they are given and often extending into later years".
But for the child to really feel loved when he receives a gift, the other love languages must be given along the gift.
The English word "gift" comes from the Greek language. It means "grace or undeserved gift". A gift is an expression of love for the individual and is freely given by the donor.
If you give a gift because your child has done something for you, then it's payback or a reward and not a real gift.
If the gift is not part of a warm and loving relationship, then the child will not appreciate it. If you lavish your child with toys because you feel guilty that you work a lot, your child will not be impressed.
If you make time for your child and spend an afternoon in town with him, taking him out for a special lunch then you take him to the shop to choose a small gift then he will remember that great afternoon with that little gift.
I remember those shopping days with my mother. We used to go to the cinema then shopping and I remember choosing a special hair clip. I kept those hair clips for many years and even gave them to my own daughter.
We all start our parenting journey by serving our children. Our baby is first totally dependent on you regarding his primary needs.
So, we serve. The author says,
Gary Chapman says: "The day you found out that you would have a child, you enrolled for full-time service. Your contract called for a minimum of eighteen years with an understanding that you would be on "active reserve" for several years after that.
Montessori said, "Never help a child at a task he feels he can succeed."
Yes, with the Montessori philosophy, we encourage our children to be as independent as possible.
At the same time, we don't have to force them to do everything by themselves all the time.
Months ago, a mother's friend commented about that quote on my Instagram account.
I love the way she expressed her ambiguity about that aspect of Montessori.
She took the example of making tea.
Of course, she is physically able to make her own tea, but she feels deeply loved and cared for when her husband makes her a cup of tea.
In the morning in our house, you may observe us and conclude that Montessori is not part of our life.
My children are barely awake and cannot cope with making their own breakfast.
They dress up, they prepare their school's belongings, but I set up the table, give them milk and cereals.
They feel cared for when I make an effort to make their breakfast. At other times, they help themselves happily, but on another occasion, they need caring.
Why is it important to serve them on some occasions? Because we want them to give back, we want them to show empathy. We want them to help us with love and compassion. From time to time, my children will show this kind of help. They will see me, and their dad being overwhelmed with work and they will say, "can I do something to help you?". My children are older, and I have waited so long to hear those words, but it happens more and more often!
Obviously, this is a concise introduction to the content of that book. I truly encourage you to figure out your child's primary love language.
The author specifies that children need a bit of all the love language to fulfill their emotional tank. But they will respond even more if you tap in their main love language.
If their love language is not your strong point, you can work on it and make some effort to speak their language.
The author's website has an online quiz to discover you and your child's love language. We all did in the family, and it was very insightful.
So can you guess what is your child's main love language? Is it different from yours? Can you think of ideas to show your love according to those 5 aspects?
Next Monday, I'm going to share an email series with my newsletter subscribers. It's like a mini-course to encourage you to connect with your child. The emails will contains infor, links and short videos.
I will share my favourite ways to connect with my children. I would be happy to send you those calming and connecting activities!
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Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.
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