Friday, April 6, 2018

Practical Love


What? Practical Love? Can love be practical? Let me explain.

The main thing is that we exercise a process of transforming wisdom we have gleaned into actions coming from loving intentions.

I think the universal question with raising young children, whether as a parent or teacher, is how to serve the true developmental and individual needs of the child, of each and every child.

To me this is practical love. We can pour out love toward the children, and provide what they truly need. There are various ways to consider basic needs. One list includes safety and connection (love). David Richo puts 5 A’s on his list. These are Attention, Acknowledgment, Affection, Appreciation, and Approval. When these needs are provided, the child feels that healthy sense of attachment that is so necessary for a young child. The parents in delivering these needs to the young child create a a fabric of trust which is named love. 

With the young child, I keep in mind the following wisdom principles which I have gleaned from my life’s work. These four principles inform all I do with the young children, and I have written about them numerous times already.

1. All learning, all development of new skills and capacities, at any age, is based on the will. What is the will but that inner force that moves us, consciously or not, toward goals? We all have a will nature, but in the young child we see a being who is primarily will oriented. Their thinking life is not awake yet.

2. The principle by which the young child learns is imitation. All ‘teaching’ for young children needs to be based on the principle of example and imitation.

3. The neurology of the young child is very different than that of an adult. If we look to the pre-frontal cortex, the home of all “executive functioning,” we see that it is still developing into the late 20’s of one’s life. In the young child it is merely a seed!

4. The experience of self that we, as adults, take for granted, is also just in seed form and is little developed in the young child.

These 4 principles must inform all that we do in relation to young child. To me, that is how we make love practical. Love is not a power that requires another to obey. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” is not effective. And it teaches the child to use force to get what he wants. (Remember the principle of imitation?)

Equally ineffective is a sentimental loving that engages the young child in decision-making, and ends up putting the child in charge. 

Practical love says to listen to the needs of the child. Listen through hearing what he wants, into his core of true need. Try, “It looks like you had fun visiting that kindergarten,”  instead of, “Honey, which kindergarten school do you want to attend?” Or, “Are you ready to move into kindergarten and out of pre-school.?” Or, “Should we put our extra money into savings or splurge on a big trip?” 

Observe your child, listen to what he says without asking a lot of questions. Then as best you can, intuit what to do. 

Sometimes the children may not be happy with our decisions that affect them. Sometimes life dishes up challenges for adults too. Resilience is developed by moving through moments of not getting what is wanted, and by moving through sadness and even anger. Many of us parents and teachers want the children to be happy all the time. So we do whatever is necessary to get them to that happy place. Perhaps the adults think - ‘if the child is not happy, he won’t like me anymore.’

This is not a practical way to live life for an adult. This is not practical love of an adult for the young child.

Please consider these principles, and see if you can incorporate them into your life with young children. This is a path of practical love. Not sentimental not superficial. This is deep love that leads to actions based on insight. 

Think about it. Consider if you want to make these thought guide your actions. 

Let me know what you think.