How to Love Your Child? Inspired by Ross Campbell

How to raise your child as a loved child? Not the archaic meaning of the “love child”, but the child, who is loved, surrounded by love, and knows how to love. This can be achieved by just expressing your love to a child the way your child can take it.

You just have to know the basic principles, that will help your baby grow healthy-minded and emotionally sane! Ross Campbell in his book “How to Really Love Your Child” explains, how to express your feelings to the child, how to love a child correctly, and the way the child expects you to love him. To love a child is a challenge and the book gives the knowledge of how to accept the challenge and give unconditional love, considering the baby’s psychology and peculiarities of development.

Dr. Ross Campbell was a professor of clinical pediatrics and psychiatry at the Medical College of Tennessee University. For more than three decades of practice, he has consulted thousands of parents on parental issues. After retiring, Dr. Ross Campbell dedicated himself to writing books and lectures on the upbringing of children in a changing world, and the challenges the modern family may encounter. For the book “How to really love your teenager” Ross Campbell was awarded the Prize of the “Gold Medallion”. He was the co-author of the bestseller “The 5 Love Languages of Children” in collaboration with Dr. Gary Chapman.


The Significance of Haptic Communication

It would seem that the easiest way to express your love for your child is a tender touch. Nevertheless, a striking fact: studies have shown that most parents touch their children only when it’s necessary: helping them to get dressed, to get in the car, and so on. You find a rare parent who simply, by their own will, without any reason uses the opportunity to touch the child gently.

I don’t mean necessarily to kiss, to hug, and so forth. I mean any physical contact: to touch the hand of the baby, hug the shoulders, pat on the head, caress the hair, tickle playfully, and so on.

If you observe closely how parents communicate with their children, you’ll see that in fact, most of them try to minimize physical contact. It looks like these poor parents believe that their children are the moving mechanical dolls, and the task is only to teach them to walk and behave correctly without any help. These parents don’t even imagine what a fantastic opportunity to communicate they miss. There is a wonderful secret to strengthening the child’s emotional balance in their hands; to reveal the secret and to use it in practice – means to succeed in the difficult role of a parent. The heart is full of joy when one realizes that there are parents who have uncovered the basic secrets of contact with the child: a loving look, a gentle touch, and real attention.

Last summer, my 8-year-old son played baseball for the school team, and I was watching his game in the stadium. A man was sitting nearby, and I realized quickly that he had instinctively discovered the secret of how to establish the best contact with his son. When the boy ran to his father, to say something, they were looking into each other’s eyes openly and friendly, laughing together, father touched his son’s hand several times, hugged his shoulders, or clapped his knee or shoulder in excitement, especially when something amused them both. It was clear that father used the corresponding contact as soon as he could, and as long as it was enjoyable for both.

At this time, the eldest teenage daughter came and sat next to the father. And here, a caring and understanding father behaved correctly. He often looked into the daughter’s eyes with a smile, but because she had already grown, he didn’t sit her on his knees as the younger son and didn’t kiss her (as he would have done if she was smaller). He just slightly touched her hand, sometimes casually patted her knee and hugged her shoulders, pressed her to him for a moment, especially if he was saying something important.

Read more about Haptic Communication and its Vital Meaning in a Family

Two Valuable Gifts to Love Child

A loving look and gentle touch are essential during everyday dealing with children. They should be natural, providing a calming effect for the child, not be demonstrative or excessive. A child that grows up in a home where his parents give him these generous gifts will feel safe and comfortable with himself and with others. It will be easy for him to communicate with others, and therefore, a child will be generally appealing to people and will have the right self-esteem.

Constant eye contact and physical contact in accordance with age – are two the most precious gifts that we can give to our children. These are the most efficient ways to fill the child’s emotional reservoir and help him to develop the best way possible.

Tom’s parents, unfortunately, couldn’t reveal by themselves the secret of these two valuable gifts. We have spoken about the wrong way they used eye contact. They also believed that the gentle touch is suitable only for the girls because they need an ostentatious love. But Tom’s parents thought that boys should be treated severely as real men. In their opinion, a manifestation of tender feelings will turn Tom into a mother’s son and will pamper him. These poor parents had no idea that the truth is just the opposite, as more emotional needs will be satisfied by using eye contact and physical touch, especially on the father’s part, as more a boy will identify himself with the male sex, and more masculine he will become.

Tom’s parents were sure that the older the boy becomes, the less emotional manifestation of love he needs, especially a physical weasel. In fact, the boy’s need for physical contact never stops, only its manifestations change.

Little boys need to be caressed, hugged, cuddled, tickled, tweaked, and kissed, – all these “calf tenderness”, as my 8-year-old son says. This physical manifestation of love is very important for a boy and it’s crucial from birth and up to 7-8 years old. I emphasize it’s crucial for his development! Studies have shown that girls up to one year old get 5 times more physical caress than boys. I am sure that it is – one of the main reasons that boys up to three years old have more complications than girls. There are 5-6 times more boys than girls in psychiatric clinics in the US. And this ratio (even by several times) increases sharply in adolescents.

Obviously, the boys need the same tender expression of love (we must note that often boys have even greater needs), as well as girls in the early years of development. As the boy grows and matures, the need for such a physical manifestation of love like hugs and kisses reduces, but the need for physical contact remains. Now he is attracted more by men’s line of conduct. All this fuss, struggle, slap on the back, scuffle, and humorous fights allow the boy to show his growing strength and agility and feel the man’s father’s support. For a boy, all these “bear pranks” – are no less important means of manifestation of attention and physical contact than “calf tenderness” and girly baby talks.

Don’t forget that the child will never outgrow the need for both types of manifestations of physical contact. As my sons grow up, they are less likely to tolerate parental hugs and kisses. But sometimes they have such a desire, and I need to be alert and not miss this opportunity to caress them. And such a need for tenderness usually occurs when they are traumatized (physically or emotionally), very tired, sick, or when a hard time comes to them: grief, illnesses, fear before sleeping, difficulties in school, and so on.


Boys are Missing Haptic Communication

As for the physical manifestation of love for the boy, I wanted to emphasize one more thing. When the baby is 12-18 months old, there is nothing easier than showing tenderness and affection. However, he grows, and it’s more and more difficult to express our feelings. Why is it so? We have mentioned one of these reasons. It’s a false prejudice that “calf’s tenderness” makes him look like a girl. In addition, there is another reason: growing up, boys don’t provoke our inner emotions and desire to caress them.

A 7-8-year-old boy with his wild energy and liveliness is annoying, tiring, affecting the nerves, and seems unbearable for many people. In order to give the child what he needs in the emotional plane, we have to recognize these feelings inside ourselves, overcome them, and strive for inner spiritual growth and perfection, in order to ensure the best possible performance of our parental responsibilities.

Girls Need Emotional Support

Now, let’s discuss what’s important to satisfy girls’ emotional needs. Girls don’t react so directly and immediately to emotional deprivation during the first 7-8 years compared with boys. In other words, their emotional needs are not so obvious. I have seen too many children suffering from emotional deprivation, and boys are usually easy to identify – their grave condition is obvious. When you look at the girls before the onset of puberty, it seems that they are well adapted to the surrounding circumstances and are less affected by the lack of emotional food. But don’t let yourself be fooled! Though little girls don’t show their grief in an explicit form, they suffer seriously if they don’t have enough emotional support. It becomes quite obvious as they get older, especially in adolescence.

One reason – is physical contact. I pointed out above, how active manifestations of tenderness are essential (hug, kiss, pat, swing, etc.) for boys at an early age. The smaller the boy is, the more important is haptic communication. At the same time, physical contact for girls (especially the external manifestations of tenderness) becomes more important with age and peaks at the age of 11. My heart feels so bad when I see the eleven-year-girl who doesn’t get the full emotional power that is as necessary as the air. It’s a critically important age!

Sharon’s Changes in Personality

“I can’t believe it! Sharon is totally like out of herself – Mrs. Francisco, the girl’s mother sobbed during the first consultation about her 15-year-old daughter. – Previously, she was quiet and shy, even passive. In fact, we had to persuade her to do something, especially in recent months. And sometimes it was impossible to bring her to any activity – she lost all interest in life. It seemed that all the vital energy drained away from her. I took her to the doctor, but he found nothing. I talked to the teachers and the school psychologist. They are also concerned about their apathy, sadness, and boredom.

My friends tried to persuade me not to worry and assured me that she would outgrow this period. I wanted so much to believe that they are right, but I was tormented by doubts. One day, I got a phone call from a friend, whose daughter was the same age as Sharon. She said that Sharon is drug-addicted. I didn’t believe it, but just in case, I searched her room and found marijuana. It was a disaster! She was stamping her feet, screaming that I was spying on her, that I interfered in her private affairs, that I had no right to rummage her. I was stunned by this outbreak. The girl is just not her own now. She is angry, aggressive, and going out with punks, my heart bleeds when I think about what they do there. They just run hither for all days with these barbarians. What will happen to her? We have lost all control over her!”

“And does she behave in the same way with the father?” – I asked.

“No, it’s better with him for some reason, but it’s more and more difficult for him to find a common language with her. In general, he can help just a little. He is so busy! He’s not always at home. And when he comes, nothing changes, because he almost doesn’t pay any attention to children. Children adore him and dream to play with him. But he immediately seeks out what they have done (after all, they are children), and pounces on them with comments. Of course, he really loves them and cares about them, I know it. But he is used to communicating with the children this way.”

It’s a tragic story, but quite banal. Normal, talented girl, young, open-hearted, with the soul ready for love. As for any child, the main question of her life is: “Do you love me?” Almost during thirteen years her parents constantly had the opportunity to answer her unspoken question, and to prove their love for her. What is especially typical for a girl: her need for the active expression of love has grown over the years and peaked at the age of 11 years – it’s a supercritical age for a girl (which her parents have missed), when girls have exacerbated desperate thirst of increased attention, a gentle and loving glance, emotionally saturated haptic communication, especially with her father.


Preparation for Adolescence

Why does the gentle expression of parental love so important for teenage girls?

Answer: they need preparation for adolescence. Each girl enters adolescence with varying degrees of readiness, some of them are well prepared, others – are not prepared at all.

There are two of the most important points in the girls’ preparation – the image of her “I am” and their sexual identity with her sex. Let’s take a closer look at the question of sexual identity among growing girls. Becoming a girl, she instinctively or intuitively feels that she will withstand the youth’s storm, only if she is self-confident. For a girl, it’s vital to feel “all right,” to be a girl “like she should”, “of the first grade”, “one hundred percent”, and cause the approval and admiration, to be “okay.” If she is 13-15 years old and feels like a confident little woman, her youth will pass relatively smoothly and calmly, avoiding the abyss and the peaks of the youth’s turmoil.

The more stable and healthy her sexual self-identity is, the better she will be able to resist the pressure of peers, including boys’ sexual feeble efforts. The worse she estimates herself as an “ok”-woman, the less stable she will be to the temptations of youth. The more unhappy she is by herself, the worse she assesses herself as a woman, the easier she will be succumbed to peer pressure (especially boys), and the less she is able to maintain the values of her parents.

Father is a Key Person for the Love Child

Sexual identity – is the approval for her that she’s a worthy representative of the female sex, and at this age, a girl should get the recognition of her importance as a future woman mainly from her father when he is alive, and especially when he is at home. If the father is dead or doesn’t communicate with his daughter, a girl has to look to other male representatives that are suitable for this role to satisfy an emotional need to communicate with the father. But when a father has a harmonious relationship with his daughter, he is the main actor, who could help his daughter to prepare for adolescence in terms of awareness of her female essence. What a great responsibility lies on the father’s shoulders!

Father helps his daughter to develop a good opinion of herself because he approves of it. And he does it by applying the principles which we have already discussed: unconditional love, eye-to-eye contact, gentle touch, and close attention. This girl’s need begins at the age of two years, but with age, it increases and becomes vital for emotional development by 13-14 years old.

But here’s the problem: as the girl grows, the father feels increasingly uncomfortable trying to express his love to her, especially at the age of 10-11 years. At the moment when it’s urgently necessary it’s more and more agonizing for the father to show his tender feelings openly, he performs the haptic communication with particular uncertainty. This is very sad. Friends and fathers, let’s forget about our embarrassment and give our daughters what is vital for them!


Our Judge for Juveniles

Like many fathers, I have trouble trying to meet the emotional needs of my children (I have four), especially physical contact with my teenage daughter; to say honestly, I can’t always pay close attention to each child. Usually, I come home in the evening like a squeezed lemon. Work sucks out of me all the juice, I feel exhausted both physically and emotionally. Where can I get the strength and energy to convey them to my children and wife, especially to my oldest daughter, who is in need of my support so much.

The girl had a conflict at school. Perhaps some girl in the class behaved aggressively and was hostile towards her because of jealousy. My daughter didn’t understand the cause of jealousy and tried to blame herself for everything. In such cases, I know what I should do. I have to go to her room and talk to her about trifles, look at her tenderly, stroking with love in order to fill her emotional tank, and wait patiently until she is ready to share with me her experiences and sufferings. Then I can explain to her what is going on until she realizes that she has done nothing wrong and she shouldn’t blame herself. And when it all becomes clear, she will try to avoid such conflicts. This is what I would like to do. But I’ve said that I rarely have enough energy and enthusiasm to fulfill this. I am usually so tired, that I only have enough force to have supper, lounge in my favorite chair, and look through a newspaper.

If you want, I’ll tell you what helps me to overcome fatigue and inertia. When the daughter of one of my sons needs my attention, and I’m attracted like a magnet to the chair and eyes stick together, I think about my friend, an excellent judge working in the juvenile court. I respect deeply and appreciate sincerely the judge. One of the most horrific, humiliating, and tragic moments that could happen in my life and in the life of my family is if – God forbid! – I would have to appear in court with one of my children, for example, on charges of drug abuse. I say to myself: “Campbell, think about the fact that every sixth adolescent appears in court! If you want to be sure that your children will not get there, it’s better for you to move, and to provide children with what they need for emotional balance, and not to please yourself basking in a soft chair.” Only one thought that my children can be there makes me shocked and I jump out of my warm place and assume my parental duties.

Close Attention

Eye to eye contact and haptic contact rarely require true efforts from parents. At the same time, attention is time-consuming and sometimes much. It may mean that parents are often forced to give up the pleasures and affairs that they prefer at the moment. Loving parents will have to face the fact that in some cases their child desperately, more than anything else, needs close attention just at the same moment when parents disposed to give it to less degree.

Source: Ross Campbell, “How to Really Love Your Child”