Withdrawing love to change behaviour is saying to the child, indirectly, that until you behave the way I want you to, I won’t love you/be near you/talk to you/play with you etc. I think it’s important to accept that like ourselves children won’t always act or feel like others would like them to or what would be most appropriate or convenient in the moment. Sometimes I don’t want to do something or feel the way dh would like but I still want to be treated with respect and dignity and not told to go away until I “choose” to feel different. With children I think it’s easy to forget that they are people too, small ones that will have a harder time understanding or choosing to behave a certain way. It can be hard at times, especially given that we have moods, needs and feelings too but actively loving and accepting our children no matter how they are behaving in the moment is a good goal.

When parents use time outs or other love withdrawal methods to punish, children learn to suppress their natural reactions or emotions for fear of recrimination. We should be offering our children safe, unconditional support when the are having sometimes difficult emotions or reactions.

I think it’s paramount to ensure the relationship or attachment is nurtured before looking at the child’s behaviour. In strengthening the relationship and attachment, the behaviour will be much easier to work with and won’t seem as big of a deal. “Bad behaviour” is also usually a sign that something is lacking in the relationship. When my dc trusts that I won’t get angry and drag them/force them/hurt them/make them etc when they aren’t acting the way I want them to then they are more willing to trust that I’ll try and help them through the tough moments. They won’t be as inclined to resist my “working with” them.

It takes two to have a power struggle. As adults and parents I think it’s our job to make sure we don’t contribute to the power struggle. Children are innately social and should want to follow our lead if we are for the most part good leaders. I think before tackling any tough moment with children we need to take a minute (or a few seconds) to check in with ourselves so we can be in the best space possible to help them. Offering yourself a little self empathy (aloud or in your head) can go a long way to letting you focus on the situation at hand in a clearer light. Things are so much harder to deal with when we are reacting with anger, resentment or annoyance. While these all are valid feelings they are perhaps better dealt with after the heat of the moment has passed and without blame to the child. They don’t make us feel any way.

Unconditional Parenting is a really great book on this subject. One of the most important messages that I think this book offers is to “work with” our children rather than “do to” them. Another attribute to Unconditional Parenting, which I think is a great frustration to many readers but I find encouraging, is that there is no “how to” or “do this if this happens” or “10 steps to parenting”. Every child and every situation is different and there is no one right answer. In fact, I think there are many respectful “working with” type answers or choices we can make with each situation. It’s just a matter of considering our perspective, getting creative and staying compassionate.

13 Responses to Withdrawal Of Love To Change Behaviour

  1. Paxye says:

    Great post!!

    perfectly said…

  2. Amanda E. says:

    thanks! I am sending it to my husband now!!! very helpful post.

  3. Annie says:

    Thanks for the thoughts! This is one subject I care a lot about because I have felt myself struggling to maintain a connection with my kids when I’m angry! I’ve had times were I’ve immediately wanted to push them away. Acknowledging that as well as a lot of quick self empathy is what I need to do make sure I don’t hurt them with punishment like this. I might try and justify it in my head as needing some space to calm down but I know that in reality I want them to hurt like I do. That’s so wrong to do to children!

    Parenting is a lot of work- obviously- but well worth our massive efforts to always do better.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Great post Annie!

  5. theresa says:

    I do my best parenting when having my children engage the issue not my opinion on it.
    2 examples I have and ask you take on them were these :
    My oldest when number 2 was born kept putting baby in harms way because she felt she was meant to help with baby and she could do better … this had alot to do with Papa being in Afghanistan … so we had a day where my oldest was Mom … she did fairly well till we were in the parking lot after groceries and she could not collapse the stroller … I offered moral support while she beat the stroller trying to get it to collapse … after a good deal of time she said she thought that being a Mom was not quite what she was ready for … we then talked about being a good big sister ( that one morning has saved me a good deal of heartache and anxiety … one cannot be there always and it doesn’ t take long for things to go wrong)

    the second was recently when my youngest was hittinh people … for the entire day she got hug and affection as needed but I refused to carry her anywhere after she had hit my leg that morning.
    The next day when we woke up she came to my room and sat on my belly with her little hand s holding my face and said ” mommy I sorry … I not hit you again … pomniss(promise)”

    so far we’ve been free … I did also ensure as your blog suggested that she got alot more things to choose in everyday life (does it REALLY matter if she decides to wear a rain boot and a dress shoe … we let her sister … guess it was past time to let her find her fashion sense)

    Probably a little long for a comment but wanted to share…

  6. Annie says:

    Theresa, it’s so hard to make comments on a situation that you aren’t there for and of course each situation with our kids really is different each time.

    Just putting myself and my children in your shoes with the stroller incident I would have probably anticipated difficulty with the stroller being put down by Lily because it’s tricky, or she’s tried it before or… If I noticed her getting frustrated, I probably would have said that and asked if she wanted to keep trying or would she like a hand with the stroller because it’s not easy. I’m not sure I would have wanted her frustration to get to the point of beating the thing. From your comment, I wonder if you were hoping the frustration she was feeling would teach her that being a mom is harder than she thinks and that she should leave the job to you? I’m guessing she wanted to help because it feels good to contribute and to make things easier for people we care about.

    It’s important that no one get hurt, of course and I wouldn’t be willing to carry a child either if I was getting hurt unnecessarily in doing so. I wouldn’t use not carrying the child as punishment though for hitting me. I’d still try to be willing to carry my child if they were willing to not hurt me purposely in the process. If I was annoyed or angry about being hit I’d try to make sure that my annoyance or anger wasn’t directed at my child.

    What seems to be in both examples is “teaching lessons” to your child with punishment. Either by letting them struggle unnecessarily or by not allowing them to be physically close. Perhaps a tad harsh in judgement, especially since I wasn’t there, there can be more to the story, I could be reading your words wrong, blah blah blah…

    I guess I would ask myself, why is my child hitting and what do I want the reason to be for her to choose to stop. Do I want her to not hit because if she doesn’t I won’t let her near me or do I want her to not hit because it hurts people?

    I would really try to expect and assume positive intentions behind my child’s behaviour and reactions. Our behaviour and reactions are signs of needs being met or not. What can we do to help our children’s needs be met? What are our own needs in each case which drive our emotions? Are we needing more cooporation, recognition, support, consideration…

    Probably jumbed and rushed here. I’d be willing to continue a conversation on this, if you’d like. It seemed like there was too much to say and I didn’t reply with all my thoughts because they were all over the place….

  7. Theresa says:

    NO I think you hit it bang on … and I am guessing that is probably the big dsifference between a non-coercive parenting style and a natural consequence parenting style.
    Natural Cosequence is by design a struggle and a behind the scenes manipulation of the event.

    There was anger and frutration but it was removed from the situation because the event played out wihout me needing to interact directly with their learning outcome. Far more detached parent wise which is probably a non coercive parent would find necessary and wrong.

    I like this style because it pushes the child to find the “social issue” present in the situation rathyer than pointing it out demanding an apology and giving a consequence.

    I greatly appreciate your answer … differing parenting and teaching types and theories absolutely thrill me to learn about. ANd I appreciate you time and candor . As you stated many times we may end up disagreeing in our techniques but we are both trying to allow our children to explore their environmenmt unincumbered by what society pushes us to acheive as well as allow them to become life long learners both in their schoolong and in their social lives.

    In other news …. I have a friend ion Sparwood named Shauma Salmon if you llok in my facebook friends … she has a special needs child witrh a non-verbal learning disorder (this mean she needs information explianed orally or visually … abstracts like math concepts ie addition equations written on paper are REAL struggle ie >>1+1 = ? << would need a visual aid or the oral explanation given for her to even approach answering.
    Sparwood schools are horrendous in their Special needs program having practically written her child off as a never graduate which is a little premature since she just finished grade one and shows phenominal talent in Language Arts .

    Is there a home schooling (unschooling) program in her area … I can't seem to find the link to your daughter's teacher to research for Shauna and was hoping for your assistance.

    Thanks again for everything baby!
    Cheers and happy Tuesday!

  8. Annie says:

    It’s not a natural consequence if it’s imposed.

    You’re right that I wouldn’t support a style of parenting that’s detached. I actually feel a bit sad that someone would take that approach on purpose. It makes me wonder if the parent needs to look deeper at why they want to avoid tougher emotions in themselves or their children. You can still be attached and allow a child room to learn on their own. You can give plenty of room while supporting the child too. Learning doesn’t have to hurt. In fact, I would suggest that learning should feel good, as should the relationship between parent and child.

    The main lesson learned when making a child learn via an imposed consequence is that their parent will not be there to help and support them when they need it the most. That their love and support is conditional, like on whether the parent thinks they need to “learn a lesson” or not.

    I believe it working with my child in life instead of doing to them or allowing other things or people to do to them. I’m their guide and I want my child to trust that I’ll be there when they need me.

    I’m just realising that you must be Theresa who I went to high school with? The online program that Lily uses is Wondertree Self Design. It doesn’t offer a curriculum but offers support in whatever curriculum you want to use or if you don’t want to use one at all. I do know that some learners are special needs though. It would be worth checking out!

  9. Theresa Louise says:

    yep it’s me one of the twins … can’t identify my real last name because of my hubby’s kpb but I’ll be darned if I give up on line stuff.

    OK so some more debate and self reflection for you (goodness this is fun … thanks for youir time by the way).

    I guess it real is reliant on what one would deem as support and withdrawl of emotion and artificial scenarios.

    When Kendra was dealing with the stroller I was down on hands and knees giving her hugs and letting her know when she was ready to ask for help I would help her. But she had to ask for it.

    As for a natural consequence being imposed or not; that again is the switch from parenting styles. A parent in the natrual consequence frame does manipulate the enivironment absolutely they do … The intent is not so focused on the “done to you” but rather on the life lesson they take away. (the done to you would be a part of the unbalance assumed in the relationship)

    The situations, especially when dealing with young young children are absolutely artificial as I think that is what your trying to point out in saying the aren’t natural …

    a more accurate wording would be a logical progression from one action to anothers response .ie Better Edithe feel hitting will withdrawl closeness than end up being hit herself by another her age.

    Better for Kendra to learn Mom knows a few more things than her, than to have the constant struggle of not listening during potentially dangerous situations particularly ones involving younger siblings.

    It allows for the struggles to come in a controlled environment rather than waiting for the proverbial other brick to fall.

    Though learning should be a positive experience to say all learning must be thus discounts the need for a child to understand safety and security of self as well as loss and greiving which tend to be rather stressful lessons in life.

    I do see your point in that both girls were quite upset … knowing that things in life are a struggle and that even when success is not acheived Mom and Dad are still waiting to sooth, love, help and support.

    In that sense your natural consequence parent is relying on the struggle to creates a learning situation (a social autopsy) so that later when that frame work is established and the children are in social situations with friends that turn sour, they know that friends will still remain and that they can learn something about themselves or the other person rather than being in a constant state of feeling they are a victim of a situation rather than a player within it.

    As for help and support when they need it most … I think that is where we will most differ.

    I am absolutley there body and spirit for my children but I cannot learn it for them I can only guide … If I do not establish that from the beginning and allow my children to make a good choice or a bad choice (however artificial they may be) and see it through to it’s ‘natural result’ (again this may be artificially created) … that child will struggle to find success apart from what a parent created environment can construct.

    I can see that your non-coercive would be much more of a push emotionally as you demand of yourself far more situations of non-reaction (meaning that you push yourself to be supportive rather than upset) and guiding.

    It would definately be a huge difference as with our family we draw journal all our feeling bad, good, ugly and pretty much like your emotions pictures … and these are building blocks to understand eachother … I learn from their pictures as they learn from mine … a situation where everyone from youngest to oldest is equal.

    There again a differnce exists natural consequence accepts as a given that the relationship is unbalanced where non-coercive it seems to me would push for everyone to be seen as an equal player I would think.

  10. Annie says:

    I definitely don’t think of this conversation as a debate. Comments are always welcome, even differing opinions but since this is my blog and it’s about natural parenting, I’m trying to keep on topic and help explain a bit more about my thoughts on the subject.

    “A parent in the natrual consequence frame does manipulate the enivironment absolutely they do …” So parents who choose this wording to describe their parenting choices do so indiscriminately? Natural consequences should really mean what it says, don’t you think? The natural consequence of wearing muddy shoes in the house is that the floor is dirty, not that the wearer must clean up after themselves. The cleaning up afterwards is a secondary situational factor. This second factor will vary depending on the needs and values of the person imposing them (on themselves or others).

    Life lessons. Yes, these are important. I want my child to learn to make decisions because they are “right” or because they make themselves or others feel good. I don’t want my children to make choices because if they don’t, something uncomfortable will happen to them, like being punished or shunned by parents in annoyance or disgust.

    What do I want the life lessons my child learns to be? I want them to learn to be compassionate, caring, honest, authentic, kind, patient, understanding… None of these things will be learned by my hurting them in some way. They are learned by experiencing others treating them this way, particularly their parents.

    “ie Better Edithe feel hitting will withdrawl closeness than end up being hit herself by another her age.” So sad that it has to be either. There are many other solutions beyond these two and ones that don’t ostracise or hurt our children in the process.

    “Better for Kendra to learn Mom knows a few more things than her, than to have the constant struggle of not listening during potentially dangerous situations particularly ones involving younger siblings.” I bet Kendra would learn how smart and capable mom is if she was included and empowered in the process of taking care of her sister.

    Frustration and struggle are a natural part of learning, but these are not situations where they are needed to learn. Children learn from modelling. When you shun a child for not behaving the way you want them to, they learn that they aren’t loved the way they are. They learn that their real feelings aren’t valid. They learn that when they are bigger than someone else they can make people behave in ways that they’d rather by using manipulation and coercion.

    When frustration and struggle are needed for learning, the “getting it” should cancel out the frustration and it should feel really good! Like when you learn to tie a shoe or when you finally learn to knit. Being made to feel left out until you change, never feels good. You’ll always feel like there’s something wrong with you and that you have to be what others want in order to be loved.

    These two examples seem to be more about mom than they do about the children. Mom doesn’t like to be hurt and makes child hurt in consequence. Mom doesn’t think child appreciates and acknowledges mom’s skill and value so allows child to struggle to emphasise mom’s superiority. It takes two to have a power struggle and it should be easier for the more mature individual to “step out of it” and find a better way to handle a situation.

  11. Theresa says:

    I guess I picked the wrong time and place to discuss parenting opinions with you … I deeply apologies .

    Seem Parenting is much like Religion for most people once the have picked one finding something to learn in anothers syle or frame work just isn’t in the cards.

    I have a questioning mind is all and though your style would not work for the personalities of myself or my children I can see the passion and vigour with which you use it in your life and the lives of your children and simply wanted to compare notes …

    I sense you see this as a challenge to your frame work . It is not intended as such it was a wish to expand my own knowledge base and glean through debate what makes the non coercive parent think … Much like in my constant study of teaching styles and types.

    I shalll leave it there and wish you the same joys in your children as I find in mine and know that you will treasure as I do seeing the little people the are becoming each and every day.

    Have a lovely rest of your summer my friend and best of luck with your little lovely in her school adventures for the year.

    Best wishes

  12. Annie says:

    Please don’t misunderstand my tone, Theresa. It’s not a bad time or the wrong place. I do talk about natural parenting here and so it will always come back to that. I don’t take your opinions as challenging my own and only want to share my perspective on the topic. I probably wouldn’t have done so if it weren’t asked for or if the conversation was on a less personal space.

    We don’t have to agree and that’s okay. The reason I don’t think it’s a debate is because I already know that I want to approach parenting in as respectful way possible and I’m not interested in trying to convince you to change your mind on however you choose to parent. Debates take too much time and energy, that I don’t have or want to spend.

    I’m learning all the time in life, about new things and ideas and refining talents and ideas I already have. I’ll admit that I already know that a manipulative relationship style (in parenting, with my spouse, friends or anyone else I come in contact with) would never work for me.

  13. Sammy says:

    This has got an awful lot of good details. With thanks -Sammy

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