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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Article: Passion and Parenting

Written by  Toby Klein Greenwald

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Article: Passion and Parenting

QHow do different personalities and levels of affection affect one's parenting?

- In-house Question

AIn the best case scenario, children grow up in a home with two parents. Often those two parents exhibit toward their children and toward each other different levels of affection, influenced by a number of factors: Different innate personalities, different family backgrounds, personal histories, etc. Children therefore have two examples constantly before them to either imitate or rebel against.

We don't give our potential spouses conscious aptitude tests in passion and affection before we tie the knot. We somehow gravitate to those people with whom we feel most comfortable, even though we may not be able to define at the time what exactly contributes to that feeling of comfort, of this being "the one." A fiery, passionate person may be drawn to someone just like her, or she may be drawn to someone just the opposite, someone quieter who complements her. Both ways can work.

But either way, at some point we'll start to wonder what effect our relationship with our spouse has on our children. How are they influenced by parents who demonstratively embrace in front of them or by parents who do not exhibit passion in front of them?

Most complex of all, how do they react to two parents who exhibit nonsymmetrical levels of passion toward each other? How do they react to two parents who exhibit different levels of affection in their parenting styles? Are they automatically drawn to the more affectionate parent, or do they see it more as a challenge to gain the affection of the less demonstrative parent?

And how does one measure affection, anyway? Is it only a physical manifestation of feelings, or is it something in one's smile, eyes and voice?

The answer is probably somewhere in between.

On the one hand, physical affection is important, especially for children. It is something they should receive and something they should observe. There have been enough studies on babies and children in orphanages to prove that a child who does not receive physical affection can develop behavioral, emotional and even physical problems. On the other hand, just touching with no real affection backing it up is not enough. A child who feels loved responds to that love. A child who is unloved cannot be made to feel loved through artificial means, though they may alleviate the pain somewhat.

Adult seismographs are subtler. Adults can discern affection that is offered in other ways, such as through looks, the voice and actions. These things are important to children as well but they must still feel physical sensations, whether through holding, hugging or stroking. It is also important, if we want them to grow up to be affectionate, warm adults, that they observe that kind of behavior between their parents.

Sometimes it is not possible. In a single parent family, for instance, the child will probably not observe his mother or father being physically affectionate with a partner. It becomes therefore that much important that he does see him/her hugging friends or relatives. These primary images of warmth between people remain with children for a lifetime.

So whether or not you're a passionate partner, try to be a passionate parent. Our bonding years with our children are limited. Make the most of them.

Toby Klein-Greenwald

Last modified on Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:57
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Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald, Executive V.P. Creative Development, is a founding partner and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily. Toby is an educator, journalist, photographer, scriptwriter, poet, playwright, lyricist, and theater director, including for populations that have experienced trauma or are at risk. She is a Playback Theater conductor and is the recipient of Israel's Ministry of Education's Egerest Award for Culture, for her work in educational and community theater. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience and has served on numerous educational think tanks. Her specialties include the creation of innovative educational programs, and teaching Creative Writing and Film to AD(H)D and LD high school students, and to senior citizens. Toby is married to Yaakov and they have six children, most of whom have made her a proud mother-in-law and grandmother.

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