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How do your children develop their inborn capacity to love? How do they learn to give and receive love? Starting at birth, love and acceptance must exist around her for your infant to begin to love. Love is the emotional food of life. Without it your child emotionally starves. Parents can also overdo it.

Children must learn, as well, love has its limits. Your child does something you find particularly annoying or unacceptable. You say, “I do not feel very good about you or about what you have done right now. I want you to go to your room and stay for a while to give me a chance to settle down and think through my feelings.”

In another situation you may discipline your child. She becomes upset and contrite. Do you pick her up and tell her you love her and are sorry you had to discipline her? No, you both move on. After a while, you feel differently and so does she. Love returns to the relationship along with the caring feelings.

Your child learns not that love is all the time and forever, but your relationship is solid and lasting and can tolerate a wide variety of emotions, a wide range of behavior, and a nearly infinite variety of situations. Sometimes you feel loving, sometimes you don’t, and a lot of the time you don’t feel much one way or the other toward your child. Still the relationship is secure, predictable, and continuing. Your child says to you, “I am angry and am going to run away from home.” Do you say, “Go ahead and run away if you want to.”? Of course not. You tell your child, in your relationship, you do not deal with problems by running away. You deal with each other, good feelings and bad, love and anger, everything.

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