Being mean also means that sometimes when children are unable to practise self-regulation — when they hit, bite, push or fight — we may need to remove them from that situation quietly, firmly and confidently, and let them know we are not going to let them hurt others. They do get better at self-regulation as they mature. Our primary need as humans is attachment or deep connectedness and when we have that from our parents or primary carers we can then feel safe and secure to focus on growing, exploring, being happy and becoming competent.
When children feel loved — especially unconditionally — they are motivated by love and affection and this means they try harder to make better choices. I favour lots of small heart connections more often to build this strong sense of being loved. When kids muck up they are more likely to respond to non-threatening and caring teaching and guidance if they feel loved and connected, rather than through punitive punishment.
How a parent’s affection shapes a child’s happiness for life
This of course requires us to manage our own reactions and to sometimes see behaviour not as naughty but through their eyes, and possibly as a celebration of how clever they are. Essentially being a mean and loving parent is what authoritative parenting is all about. Pain sends us immediately into our lower brain stem, which governs the "fight or flight" impulse, and our child immediately looks like the enemy. That automatically drops us onto "the low road" of parenting. You know the low road.
When you lose all access to reason and feel justified in having your own little tantrum. In the middle of that hectic momentum, enter our child, who has lost her sneaker, suddenly remembered she needs a new notebook for school today, is teasing her little brother, or is downright belligerent. And we snap. The bad news is that virtually all of us were wounded as children, and if we don't heal those wounds, they prevent us from parenting our children optimally. If there's an area where you were scarred as a child, you can count on that area causing you grief as a parent.
But the good news is that being parents gives us an opportunity to heal ourselves. Most parents say that loving their children has transformed them: made them pore patient, more compassionate, more selfless. Our children have an unerring ability to show us our wounded places, they draw out our unreasonable fears and angers. Better than the best zen master or therapist, our children give us the perfect opportunity to grow and heal.
Almost magically, as our wounds transform, we find that these hurt places inform us, motivate us, make us better parents. Parents ask me "what DO you do instead of punish when your kids act up? Decode the behavior -- why is he acting this way? Meet his needs, including his need for more connection with you. Do you set limits? Of course. My favorite resource is the index of Alfie Kohn's wonderful book Unconditional Parenting, which lists hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that support this view.
That's a wealth of research. I refer readers here because you get a synopsis of peer-reviewed research from a credible academic, and you get the citations to track the studies down if you want to. But here are a few studies to get you started. More are being published every day. Burhans, Karen Klein, and Carol S. Chapman, Michael, and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler.
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, Dienstbier, et al. Hoffman, Martin. New York: Wiley, b. Grolnick, Wendy S. Hoffman, Marin, and Herbert D. Cohen, Patricia, and Judith S.
Mary Hartzell: What You Can Learn From A Legacy of Creating Loving Parent/Child Relationships
Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, Kandel, Denise B. Gershoff, Elizabeth Thompson. Gordon, Thomas. New York: Times Books, Sears, Robert R. Maccoby, and Harry Levin. Patterns of Child Rearing. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson, Straus, Murray A. Loseke, Richard J.
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Gelles, and Mary M. Research over the past decade highlights the link between affection in childhood and health and happiness in the future. Science supports the idea that warmth and affection expressed by parents to their children results in life-long positive outcomes for those children, according to Child Trends , the leading nonprofit research organization in the United States focused on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families. Higher self esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to this type of affection.
On the other hand, children who do not have affectionate parents tend to have lower self esteem and to feel more alienated, hostile, aggressive, and antisocial.
There have been a number of recent studies that highlight the relationship between parental affection and children's happiness and success. In , researchers at Duke University Medical School found that babies with very affectionate and attentive mothers grow up to be happier , more resilient, and less anxious adults. The study involved approximately people who were followed from when they were infants until they were in their 30s. When the babies were eight months old, psychologists observed their mothers' interactions with them as they took several developmental tests.
Then 30 years later, those same individuals were interviewed about their emotional health. They were also less likely to report hostility, distressing social interactions, and psychosomatic symptoms. The researchers involved in this study concluded that the hormone oxytocin may be responsible for this effect. Oxytocin is a chemical in the brain released during times when a person feels love and connection.
It has been shown to help parents bond with their children, adding a sense of trust and support between them. This bond most likely helps our brain produce and use oxytocin, causing a child to feel more positive emotions. Next, a study from UCLA found that unconditional love and affection from a parent can make children emotionally happier and less anxious. This happens because their brain actually changes as a result of the affection. On the other hand, the negative impact of childhood abuse and lack of affection impacts children both mentally and physically. This can lead to all kinds of health and emotional problems throughout their lives.
What's really fascinating is that scientists think parental affection can actually protect individuals against the harmful effects of childhood stress. Then in , a study out of the University of Notre Dame showed that children who receive affection from their parents were happier as adults. More than adults were surveyed about how they were raised, including how much physical affection they had.
The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall. Those who reported less affection struggled with mental health, tended to be more upset in social situations, and were less able to relate to other people's perspectives. This special interaction between mother and baby, in particular, helps calm babies so they cry less and sleep more. It has also been shown to boost brain development. According to an article in Scientific American , children who lived in a deprived environment like an orphanage had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who lived with their parents.
Scientists believe that the lack of physical contact in the orphanages is a major factor in these physical changes. Finally, numerous studies on the effects of massage show the positive benefits it offers to reduce anxiety in children. Massage is also a good way for parents to connect to their children, both physically and emotionally.
Starting in infancy, a parent can begin to massage their child , which can create a strong bond. Studies have shown children and adults who receive massage experience less anxiety during academic stress, hospital stays, and other stressful events. Do fun activities like dancing together or creating silly games like pretending to be a hugging or kissing monster. In the recent Trolls movie, the trolls wore watches with alarm clocks that would go off every hour for hug time.
If that's what it takes, then set yourself an alarm. Or make sure to give your kids a hug during certain times of the day, such as before they leave for school, when they get home from school, and before bedtime. As you talk to them about what they did wrong, put your hand on their shoulder and give them a hug at the end of the conversation to ensure them that, even if you are not pleased with their behavior, you still love them. If your children hit their sister or brother, hug them and explain how hugging feels better than hitting. Finally, be careful not to go overboard and smother your kids.
Respect their individual comfort level, and be aware that this will change as they go through different stages. Freelance writer, blogger , and editor specializing in parenting, wellness, environmental issues, and human behavior. I enjoy analyzing everyday life using science, humor, and a passion to improve the world. I am also an expert in simplifying science to educate others on challenging topics that affect our lives. There are many reasons I love summer—pool days, beach days, lake days, pretty much anything that involves me and my family all submersing ourselves in a body of water to beat the heat.
But one thing that always signals the start of the season is getting outside and grilling for my family.
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As a mom of four kiddos, I'm always looking for the healthiest ingredients possible—ones lure my kids to eat their vegetables and proteins. Firing up the grill gets me out of my hot, cramped kitchen and into the great outdoors. But more importantly, with the summer bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, it's so much easier for me to create and serve healthy meals to my kids.
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And those condiments aren't full of empty calories and refined or added sugars. I love the entire Primal Kitchen collection because it's full of healthy ingredients like avocado oil, collagen, oil of oregano and apple cider vinegar—with zero containing dairy, gluten, grain, refined sugar or soy. Say it with me, folks: Yum. As the first-ever avocado-based mayonnaise, this one is made with organic cage-free eggs, has no sugar, is Whole Approved and Paleo and Keto friendly.
Slather it on a bun or throw it in a chicken salad for a healthy spin on classic mayo you'll always feel comfortable serving to your family. Since my husband embarked on his Keto journey, we've learned a lot of shocking things about the ingredients in our favorite food, but none were more shocking than the fact that regular ketchup—you know, the stuff we throw on everything all year long—is laden with a crazy amount of sugar. But finding a version that actually tastes good and has no sugar added was no easy task… until I discovered Primal Kitchen's organic version. Tastes just like the classic version we know and love but with zero sugar and features organic California-grown tomatoes!
Is there anything better than a delicious summer salad drenched in ranch? Or some grilled chicken with a ranch drizzle? This one is a whole lot more delicious thanks to its avocado oil base infused with monosaturated fats and organic eggs. What's not in there? The guilt-inducing ingredients.
Zero buttermilk, dairy, gluten, soy, canola oil or refined sugars. Bonus: You can use it as a marinade, too.