How does one react to a “I Love You” from the kid

Recently Migu has learnt to say ‘I love you’. I dont know if she really understands what it means, for her it is just something we whisper to her, and we expect her to be pleased with the statement, and we also feel happy when she says it to us. Ergo, it must mean something nice and pleasant.

So far, so good. But she also uses the fact that we feel happy when she says this to her advantage. Recently, when she was making a fuss about eating, and kept repeatedly throwing her spoon and asking me to fetch it, I told her, this was a bad habit, and I was not happy with her for doing this. She realized that I was not pleased with her.  And immediately she said, “I Love You.”

It was very clear to me that in no way was she repenting her behavior and she was using these words to change my mood. So though I felt warm and fuzzy hearing her, I did not relent immediately. But what could I do. Can I say I simply ignore her or say I dont believe you love me. That would be a cruel belittling of her emotion and attempt and I dont want her to start feeling people dont believe things she says. Neither could I say she is manipulative, because I guess at some level, all of us are manipulative, when it comes to making the other person feel pleasant (specially if that person has power and authority over you). And the child has just said I love you. Can I make her associate love with manipulation because of my words.

I decided to say, it is not enough to say you love me. Prove it by being a good girl and finishing your food. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized that was again a mistake. Hey, am I not saying Love is conditional and one needs to prove one’s love. Again bad example to give a one and a half year old.

I am quite lost. I know that I cant let her get away with what she did, just because she used these magic words. But how do I accept these words unconditionally and still make her realize the behavior is not acceptable. 


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2 thoughts on “How does one react to a “I Love You” from the kid

  1. Henri says:

    Hm. Something I have learned while working with children and youth for the last 8 years is “separate the person from the behavior”. One suggestion I can give is whenever she tries to change your mood by saying I Love You…respond by saying, “I love you too. But right now I am upset with you. Please finish your food/do xyz etc.” This validates the words…but also sets limits on the act of using it to escape consequences. There is a thought process that she is saying “I Love You” because she realizes that she has done something wrong. However, as she grows up, she will definitely need limits and boundaries. It’s a good time to start now! Having said that, I love how introspective you are about the message you give Migu. I am sure she is going to turn out to be a good kid!

  2. divyasarma says:

    I introspect and try to change, but at times, in the heat of the moment, I do lose my cool. Migu is turning two now, and someone told me that at this stage, the kids actually behave a bit like teenagers. I guess I should tell myself that because I introspect, even if sometimes I end up conveying a wrong message, I can seek to redress it consciously later.

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