Sometimes parents get so caught up in the physical acts of parenting, that they forget about the emotional acts of parenting. Becky Bailey presents the idea of making rituals in order to reconnect with our children in her book I Love You Rituals. While much of the book is targeted to parents and caregivers with young children, I think many parents could benefit from reading her book.
The first couple of chapters seemed to drag on a bit, but she started getting to the heart of the matter in chapter two. In line with other writers of non-coercive parenting, Bailey discusses the concept of unconditional love. She takes her explanation a step further by clarifyng it as unconditional affection. Just as others have written, most parents always love their children. The disconnect is in the child’s perception – based on our actions. Children need to experience our unconditional love as unconditional affection.
I’ve often heard from people who would be sold on the idea of non-coercive parenting if the idea of praise was part of the concept. Some people exclaim that they themselves love hearing praise, and therefore they refuse to take that away from their children. I believe that Bailey hits a key point. It isn’t praise that people long to hear, it is feedback that they truly want. They aren’t really looking for a “Good Job” when they clean the kitchen, go to work, take care of the kids, or do any of the other things we as parents do on a daily basis. What they really want is feedback. They want to hear that someone noticed what they did and possibly whether or not that person appreciated their effort. The same applies to our children. They don’t need to hear that you think they did a good job at something, they just want acknowledgement that you saw them do it. They want specific feedback without judgement because in listening to feedback, they know you are there for them, and yet they are free to make their own decisions about their actions.
I Love You Rituals are things we can do to reconnect with our children, both in normal times and in times of undo stress. It’s that connection with our children that allows us to work together as a team in order to solve problems. Bailey addresses the idea of authority in a different light, using the root of the word. Parents as authorities do not impose their will on their children. It is impossible to truly control another person. Instead, she suggests that we use our authority to lead the situation away from where it is going and reconnect with our children in times if stress (whatever they may be) by using rituals.
The rest of the book has suggestions for love rituals. There is an extensive section on finger plays which would be quite appropriate for toddlers, although she does address activities for elementary aged kids at the end of the book. Overall, it’s a good book, and I think she has found a unique way of explaining some of the NCP/CL concepts. The examples of love rituals would be helpful for parents and caregivers of young children who need a little help coming up with ideas.