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Unconditional Love

The other day I had the opportunity to speak at a wonderful school in Goodrich, Michigan. I was setting up my equipment in the cafeteria and there was a teacher assigned to get the kids moving in and out quickly so that they could start the assembly on time.

She was praising the students with these words

“Jimmy you are cleaning up after yourself, Awesome!

“ Kelly, give me a high five, you weren’t talking while you were eating, thank you.”

“No Bobby I can’t give you seconds because you haven’t finished what you already have on your plate but I am so grateful that you asked me first.”

Notice this teacher was not using conditional statements words like: I love you when you…. I am happy when you… You are my friend when you…

All those kinds of statement put conditions on our students and children.

What the students are hearing is: if you don’t do what I say I no longer like you.

I will not love you anymore if you don’t get an “‘A “on the test.

Stan Davis in his book Schools Where Everyone Belongs writes “Focus our feedback about behavior toward actions and strategies rather than toward judgment about the student as a person or toward our own feelings about the student.”

Some students at home have to deal with conditional love every day. Studies have shown that this can cause stress, confusion, frustration, anger and lack of self-worth.

Mueller and Dweck (1998) in research spanning 30 years found that children react to conditional praise and criticism. They found that some “avoid difficult tasks for fear of failure and not being able to live up to their teacher/parents’ wishes. “

At school and at home when we take away the conditions our students and children begin to understand that they are loved and valued no matter what. This kind of unconditional love has been proven to improve self-esteem, self-worth and inspire a willingness to make the right decisions.

In Bully-Free Schools: Circle of Support Research Guide, Dee Lindenberger writes: “Maintain a positive feeling tone and strong staff connection. When Young people know they belong and are welcomed, they are more likely to try out positive behaviors.”

In the book Bully-Proofing Your School the authors say that “victims of a bully are likely to be anxious, insecure children who lack social skills and the ability to defend themselves.”  If  we add conditions to our praise we are also adding additional scars to an already emotionally torn child.

If you want to stop aggressive behavior or help the child who is afraid to socialize then take away the “conditions”of praise and begin to practice unconditional love.

Copyright Richard Paul 2013







2 Responses to “Unconditional Love”

  1. Thanks for sharing the link. I like the tone of your article. It is aimed at one of many nearly invisible ways we either strengthen the bully culture or begin to replace it with something more humane. The antibullying programs that make me nervous are the ones that focus on the bully or the bullying incident. We have to look at the whole school culture from the way we do our competitions to the nonverbal feedback we give these kids that are often so critical of themselves. Thanks for keeping the focus on the humane things we can do to weaken the bully culture in America..
    By Jim Weller

  2. Hi Richard,
    Thank you for identifying and calling this out! I know my father loves me. However, I better do, say and live it his way or he will withdraw his loving relationship with me. He has done it with my brother, sister and I our entire lives. Please don’t get me wrong, we adore my Dad…but it hurts so deeply and does leave emotional scars when he uses “conditional love”.
    I learned “unconditional love” from Doug and his Dad. It is the most comfortable, wonderful thing in the world to know that no matter what I do…I am loved first, and asked questions later! I am truly blessed to have them in my life., and have vowed to raise our children this way. It’s a beautiful gift to be able to give them every day!
    I’m pretty sure that the only reason that my Dad works this way is that it’s the only way he knows. So, thank you for bringing this subject up and putting it “out there”. Together with Gods hand, maybe this will lead and guide someone, if not a-lot-of-one… to take a look and maybe reevaluate how to show their love, unconditionally!
    Thank you for all that you are doing.
    Warm regards,
    Cathy Zinda

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