By Sabrina Bartels – I recently saw a video circulating online that really made me smile. Kids from low-income families were asked what they wanted for Christmas. After discussing this, the kids were presented with two presents: one was exactly what they had asked for, and one was what their parents really wanted for Christmas. The children were then asked to pick one of the presents to take home.
The kids struggled. Wouldn’t you? Sitting in front of you is the toy of your dreams, the one that you maybe were told was “too expensive” for Christmas. Here it was in front of you, free to take! And on your other side was a coffee maker, or a watch, or something that maybe wasn’t quite as exciting as what you asked for.
And do you know what every one of those kids did? They picked the present that their parents wanted. They chose something for their family, instead of something for themselves. (Don’t worry: the kids got the present for their parents and their dream toy!)
To me, this demonstrated the complete, unconditional love that children have for their parents. Regardless of whatever little arguments may come up, or however sassy kids may be, they love their parents. They would do anything for them to show that love. It also showed me the complete, unconditional love that parents have for their children – I wonder how many of the parents went without a coffee maker, or a new watch, just so their children could have a present under the tree.
I mention this unconditional love because this is something you see a lot as a counselor. Relationships between students and their parents are a constant topic in my office. So many times, students will come into my office, ranting and raving about how their parents grounded them, took away their personal device, or yelled at them. On occasion, I have students reporting abuse or neglect at the hands of a family member. And while they are shouting about how much they hate their parents, they also say in the same breath, “But it’s my mom, so I love her” or “He’s still my dad, even though I’m mad at him.”
This can also extend to my own relationship with my students. I’ve had students walk out of my office, fuming because they do not like my advice. Or they think that I’m “ganging up” on them with the teacher. They swear they will never talk to me again. Imagine my surprise when two days later, that same student is back in my office, chatting with me as though nothing ever happened.
I once asked one of the students why she came back to talk to me, since we had really clashed before. She had stormed out of my office, swearing she would never speak to me again as long as she lived, and went around telling her friends that she never wanted to see me again. Her response? “I know you were just looking out for me.”
We were always told about unconditional positive regard in grad school, and here is the proof of it. My students know that as honest and (sometimes) critical I can be of decisions they make, they know that I am always on their side. It’s part of being a “parent.” I want my students to make better decisions than I made in middle school. I want them to learn from the mistakes I experienced. And really, that’s what parents want as well. They want their children to have better lives than they had, and are willing to make whatever sacrifices they need to in order to make that wish come true.
As we finish celebrating our holiday season (and I enjoy a few more days of winter break!) let’s remember the real reason for the season: time spent with family, who love us every day!
To watch this touching video, click here.