Unconditional love in parenting

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The basic idea behind unconditional love seems quite reasonable. You should love your children just for who they are, regardless of what they do. Children shouldn’t have to worry whether their actions will cause you to love them less. They should be able to count on your love no matter what.

If you look at unconditional love carefully you see why this fails. By taking away conditional love, parents lost their ability to influence their children. Parents gave their children carte blanche in the misguided belief that this freedom would build their  self-esteem, foster maturity and independence, and allow them to become successful and happy people. But what it actually did was hurt self-esteem, encourage immaturity, and ill prepare children for life in the adult world.

Similarly, you should make your love conditional on whether your children behave like decent human beings, namely, they act on healthy values such as honesty, kindness, respect, and responsibility. If your children behave poorly, they know that you will withdraw your love-at least temporarily. If they behave well, they know that you will give your love. In time, your children will learn to internalize this healthy conditional love and it will guide them in acting in ethical ways.

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