Love and Rewards
Love & Rewards, do Parents and Children Know the Difference?
As parents, separating love and rewards and offering them appropriately to a child is critical. I have often seen children disoriented by the conflicting messages of parents who use love as rewards and rewards as love. Proper orientation to these topics can be critical to the healthy development of a child.
The best way to explain the difference between rewards and love is through an example of how to interact with our kids.
As parents, we hand out rewards and punishments to our children. For example, your daughter might bring home an outstanding report card and as a reward, you decide to take her to get ice cream. Now, your son may be observing this from afar and in his mind he concludes, “Mom and dad must love my sister more than me because they took her to get ice cream. If I want them to love me more I need to get good grades too.”
Is it true, do you love your daughter more than your son because you bought her ice cream? Is love conditional? Absolutely not! Love for our children should be full. Because we choose to reward one and not the other based on performance does not make our love conditional and we should explain this clearly to our children.
With that said, it is easy to see how children could come up with this perspective of love being conditional given they are young and maybe do not entirely understand the difference between rewards and love. That is why we should always show them that love is given freely without strings or hooks attached. Their performance or lack there of will never lesson your love for them for they are your children and you are their parent!
Do you see how love and rewards can become intermixed? Even more, we sometimes see parents knowingly promoting love as conditional. Just because our limited minds have a hard time separating rewards and love or we have been raised to believe that they are one in the same, does not mean they are or should be combined.
Conditional loving children come from homes that knowingly or unknowingly combine their love and rewards in to one program thus confusing both. The result is that unconditional love is not fully experienced and rewards are promoted as love. Love is love, not rewards. If we really see love as conditional we will begin to use rewards as emblems of our love and quickly love will be seen as something that must be earned, not given and received freely.
In simplest terms rewards are positive reinforcement for good behaviors and should be used as such, where as Love is the heart felt commitment to someone regardless of outcome or circumstance. As a parent, learning to love fully and rewarding with wisdom is critical. Remember to practice this each day in your marriage and then take time to explain and demonstrate the difference to your children.