Dear Grandparenting: I am a grandfather with one 5-year old grandson. My daughter is a mother with one 5-year old son. We both love that little boy, but in different ways.
My daughter uses more of what they call “conditional love.” The more that he does what she wants, the more she tends to act loving. But if he challenges her, all bets are off.
On the other hand, I 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, not so much what they do.
I have often wondered whether it’s better to be raised being loved conditionally or unconditionally. I suppose one could argue it either way. I would like to hear what you think and am certain your readers would also. Ken Wayne, The Villages, Florida
Dear Ken: Whenever child psychologists get together, you can be sure the conditional versus unconditional love debate is somehow on their agenda.
Until a child passes through adolescence, most parents employ conditional love and for good reason. Civilizing and socializing children takes discipline, including frequent use of the word, “no.”
Grandparents tend to be more lenient. Cynics maintain that’s because grandparents soon give them back to the parents.
Instead of arguing which method is superior, we believe that conditional and unconditional both have their rightful places.
One of the most important lessons children must learn is that their decisions and actions have consequences. Conditional love is appropriate should they lie or bully, say temporarily withdrawing your approval and sending them to their room.
But such a system of reward and punishment needs 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.
When grandchildren start thinking that the love they receive depends on how they obey or achieve, they may find it challenging to become independent adults in a sustained romantic relationship.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Marcie Brown, of Fishkill, New York, reports that she has “sticky floors, one messy kitchen, one small rubber ball floating in the fishbowl, one less pint of ice cream and two happy grandchildren.”
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.