When we remember to love our children in active, engaged ways, our relationships shift.
As parents, we have to set limits for our child. It's helpful to explore whether our limits are an expression of love or fear. When a little child grabs for a cookie he isn't allowed to have, we can be frustrated, angry, even judgmental. 'He never listens unless I yell.' We can also connect with love, knowing how it is to want something we can't have, feeling compassion, and still setting a clear limit. 'Sorry sweetie, no more cookies. Let me put it away so we don't have to keep looking at it!'
Connection makes the difference.
Limits without love can feel cold and disconnected. The limits may be wise and correct or may be overreactive, but they are expressed under the influence of other, usually unconscious, emotions, Children are emotionally perceptive, probably 'getting' our underlying emotions more clearly than we do, and may feel scared, ashamed, angry, and disconnected when we set limits this way.
Love without limits can be hard, too. Parents who struggle to set limits may let their child eat as many cookies as he wants, stay up past her ideal bedtime, or drive the car without finishing the chores he is responsible for. This is hard for both parent and child. The parent is often frustrated by the child's behavior, wishing she was more tuned in to the right way to act. The child senses that nobody else is in charge and feels a need to fill the role.
As a mom (to 2 teenage sons), wife, and person in the world, I have been on a long imperfect journey. I have made many mistakes, but with mindfulness, emotional reflection, and lots of support I have learned enormously from those mistakes.