Love, conditional or not


By Tom and Dee and Cousin Key



Dear Grandparenting: I am a happy grandmother with one seven-year-old grandson. My daughter is a happy mother with one seven-year-old son. We both love that little boy, but in different ways. My daughter uses more of what is called “conditional love.” The more he does what she says, the more she tends to act loving towards him. I don’t mean to say she gets nasty when he disobeys her, but I’ve noticed that she is kinder and more affectionate with him if he doesn’t challenge her and follows her orders.

I, on the other hand, feel like I love my grandson unconditionally, for better or worse. That’s what they say about grandparents. We love them for who they are and not so much what they do.

I have often wondered whether it’s better to be raised being loved conditionally or unconditionally. I suppose you could argue it either way. I would like to hear what you think and I am certain your readers would also. Marlene Oberlander, Houston, Texas

Dear Marlene: Remember that Beatles song, “All You Need Is Love?” That’s a good start, but we need more specificity when we’re talking about raising grandchildren. Yours is a common concern. Whenever child psychologists come together, you can be sure the conditional versus unconditional love debate is somehow on their agenda.

Until a grandchild passes through adolescence, parents appear to use more conditional love for the simple reason that raising a child without putting limits on their behavior can produce a madhouse. Civilizing and socializing children takes discipline and frequent use of the word, “no.” Grandparents tend to be more lenient and forgiving. Cynics say that’s because grandparents usually give their grandchildren back to their parents after a few hours.

Instead of arguing which method is superior, we believe that conditional and unconditional each have their rightful place. One of the most important lessons children need to learn is that their actions have consequences. If they lie or bully, conditional love is appropriate, say temporarily withdrawing your approval and briefly sending them to their room. But such a system of reward and punishment needs to be balanced against a backdrop of unconditional love — loving them for who they are, not whether they achieve the best grades or become the best athletes. That makes them afraid to fail, or afraid to try because they may fail. When grandchildren start thinking that the love they receive depends on how they obey or achieve, they may find it challenging to develop into independent adults in a sustained romantic relationship.

GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK

Ted Beach from Towson, Maryland, phoned his wife, Charlotte, to see how she was doing with the grandkids.

“OK,” said Charlotte somewhat mysteriously. “The handwriting is on the wall.” Then she hung up.

Tom looked at his phone, thought for a minute, and called back.

“Don’t tell me they brought over their crayons again!”

“Exactly,” said Charlotte.

Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.

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By Tom and Dee and Cousin Key

Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.

Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.