The Protective Power of Love
In the world of parenting, the words “love” and “protection” hold real power — especially when it comes to taking care of children as they grow. The power of love is life-changing. Love is what young people crave. Protection stirs up feelings of strength and positivity. It makes children feel safe and secure. But did you know, when you show your children how much you love them, it provides one of the most protective forces in their lives? It’s the main element within balanced parenting — a parenting style that has proven key in raising competent, successful children, teens, and young adults.
What Teens Want
Adolescents want strong relationships with their parents. They want to know they are loved. We know teens rely on parents and caregivers both for emotional support and for clear guidance. Don’t be fooled if teens roll their eyes or want to walk a few feet ahead of you. They still count on you. They trust you. They need you. By showing them how much you love them you are building stronger and more resilient children. Not only that, but the protection that comes from your love will last into adulthood.
Consider Balanced Parenting
Over the past 30 years, plenty of research has been done showing the important relationship between parenting styles and teenage development. The results are consistent. Overwhelmingly, parents who chose balanced parenting were successful in raising capable kids with a positive sense of self-worth. What do we mean by balanced parenting? Balanced parents use the power of love and show their kids how much they care for and about them. They are warm and supportive. They set high expectations but are there for their kids if or when they fail. They set clear limits and monitor boundaries. They generally know what their children are up to when it comes to whereabouts, activities, and friends. They are flexible to meet the needs of their children. They avoid a more rigid, “Because those are the rules,” approach to parenting. They believe communication between a parent and a child is a two-way street. They understand that parents have experience but recognize that young people also possess wisdom about their world.
This style of parenting has been shown to raise successful children. This includes achieving higher academic success, making positive choices when it comes to new opportunities and building greater resilience. It’s shown to help them make wise, healthy decisions about drugs, sex, and other risky behaviors. That is the power of love providing some pretty important protection!
As great as that protection is, it will have its limits if we don’t set good examples. If our teens see parents and caring adults taking risks, they may take risks as well. Our actions show them what’s normal. Do you smoke at home? Don’t be surprised if your teens try smoking. Do you use drugs? There’s a higher chance of teens using them if they think you are using them. Telling your teen one thing (“I love you and want you to be safe. Don’t do drugs.”) and doing another (smoking marijuana yourself) sends mixed messages that weaken the best of your parenting.
It’s hard to pull back on protective instincts — especially if you’ve been using them for a while. But you need to try to do so. It’s a problem when the need to keep kids safe sends a message that we don’t trust them. That we don’t think they are able or qualified to get things done. That we don’t feel confident in their abilities. Our “overprotection” doesn’t protect them at all. Rather, it does the opposite.
Think about protection and trust going hand in hand. If we trust our children we protect them. If we distrust them, we undermine their confidence. We leave them hanging. Instead, we need to let them know we are confident they have the capacity to make the right decisions. We remain available to guide them. Our presence (and guidance when asked) gives them the confidence to succeed both at home and eventually, once they leave home.
Trusting that your kids will get through challenges or ultimately figure things out does not mean ignoring really threatening situations. If something challenges safety or morality, step in. Otherwise, let life teach its lessons and trust that preparation is protection for the future.
Teens who know they are loved can handle whatever life throws at them. They always have stable, caring relationships to fall back on. Our love and support is protective. It provides the safety and security teens need to make it in the world.
Show your children you love them. Don’t be afraid to say the words. There’s no doubt our lives are affected (both as parents and children) when we are “under the influence” of love. Think of love as an ever-present, positive influence in promoting well-being.
Step back and watch as the protective influence of love endures throughout the teen years and long into adulthood.