We learn love experientially, not intellectually. How we were loved as babies and children sets up a pattern of what love means. This pattern is rooted deep in our bodies even when we realize that our parents were imperfect and sometimes misguided. The relationship patterns are strong, pervasive, and mostly unconscious.
Most of us learned consciously or unconsciously that we had to fit into family expectation to be accepted. We learned that we would be pushed away or punished when we were too loud or quiet, too messy or uptight, too emotional or cerebral, too rude or goody-goody, too needy or independent, too inappropriate.
Those learnings are like muscle memory in us, they operate reflexively. As adults, they are probably still stopping us in some ways, maybe stopping us from speaking our truth, expressing our true nature, crying, or asking for help. These learnings also operate in our parenting. Without intending to, we pass these same teachings on to our own children. We may be uncomfortable with how they express emotions and send them to their rooms until they can speak appropriately. We may repress the parts of them that make us uncomfortable and embrace the parts that feel good to us, teaching them that the way to our hearts is to behave 'well.'
As we become more conscious parents, we begin to notice the ways that our kids 'push our buttons' and get curious. We explore what's happening in us and how we tend to react, discovering behavioral patterns that are conditional rather than unconditional. With awareness and practice, we can take care of and release our old feelings and patterns, learning how to open our hearts more fully. This helps us to love and accept our children, even when they challenge our beliefs and habits.
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.