Bestest Buddy called me yesterday to rant.

She ran into an acquaintance of hers who stopped to brag about a recent parenting exploit. This woman is a pastor, and the mother of several adopted children. The oldest is in her teens and has been having difficulties: skipping class, dating boys in their twenties, and so on. Apparently the mother confronted her daughter about this behaviour – particularly the truancy – and they got into a big fight. The daughter did the melodramatic teenager thing and threatened to leave the house. The mother told her to do so. The teen stormed out, and while she was gone, her mother packed her bags! She returned to be handed her suitcase and sent back out the door.

So now the kid is in a shelter for homeless teens.

The mother relayed this story to my friend with great satisfaction, as an example of her excellent parenting. This woman is proud of herself for standing up to her troubled adopted daughter. “Plus,” she says in front of one of her other children, “the house is so much quieter and more pleasant to be in now that she is gone!”

Bestest Buddy asked the mother if she had sent a message to her daughter, asking her to come home. Apparently the youngest child talks to her on the phone occasionally.

“No,” said the pastor, “it’s not MY place. If SHE wants to come home, it is HER responsibility to ask forgiveness.”

Now, if you think the above is an example of great parenting, please leave now and don’t bother returning to my blog again.

I am appalled.

The mother clearly sees it this way: Her daughter acted out, was called on her bluff, and is being a stubborn brat. It is the child’s responsibility to start acting like a grown up and the mother is perfectly justified in being totally childish about this power struggle.

I see it this way: A troubled child, adopted out of foster care, is having life difficulties as many of us do in our teenage years. Her adoptive mother then fights with her over her behaviour, which she doesn’t even know how to control because she is a teenager. She threatens to leave in order to draw out her mother’s love. She storms out hoping to make her mother feel guilty, and eventually returns hoping for a recalcitrant mother who will hug her and tell her how much she is loved. Instead she is handed a suitcase. Now, convinced that her adoptive mother is sorry that she adopted her, she is living in a shelter. Her adoptive siblings tell her that her mother is actually commenting on how “nice” is it that she isn’t around any more.

My heart breaks to think of it.

Even if I try to subscribe to the mother’s point of view, I can’t help but notice that this kid is still not going to school, and therefore this “excellent” parenting seems to be wholly ineffective.

People need to realize something, once and for all:

LOVE.

We all just want to be loved.

Feeling unloved affects different people in different ways. Some people become anxious and awkward, and let the world walk all over them because they feel so worthless. Some people hold impossible standards for themselves, constantly trying to achieve worthiness. Others build themselves up with bragging and even lying, in order to “trick” others into thinking that they are worthy. Many people just tear other people down, to try improve their self-worth by comparison.

Whether it’s the worried lady biting her nails on the bus, or the type A workaholic who keeps straightening the pencils on your desk, or the boasting coworker who takes credit for your ideas, or the bully who made fun of your clothes… all the people who cause problems in your life, or have problems in their own life, all just want to be loved. So the next time someone pisses you off, stop and think about how THEY must be feeling, and remember – they are being jerks because they don’t feel loved.

Once you start looking at it this way, you’ll see it all over the place. You can apply the “everyone wants to feel loved” theory to ANY interpersonal conflict and I guarantee you, it will fit. The friend who is fighting with another friend? It’s just because Friend A hurt Friend B’s feelings by mistake, so Friend B overreacted and hurt Friend A, who overreacted and hurt Friend B, and now they aren’t speaking because each feels unloved by the other… The woman who can’t get along with her mother? It’s just because the mother feels unloved and reacts in a way which is hurtful to the daughter, so she reacts in a way which is hurtful to her mother, who reacts in a way that is hurtful to her daughter…

Love your children.

Stop criticizing bad behaviour, and start rewarding good behaviour. Any psychologist will tell you that praise and reward are ten times stronger than punishment and criticism. Take it from a dog trainer – the best way to solve a bad behaviour is to ignore it, and reward GOOD behaviour instead. Dog is barking? Praise him for being quiet. Teenager is yelling? Praise them when they calm down, and then tell them how much you love them.

Whatever the problem is, throw love at it. Tell your children that you love them and that they are worthwhile. Do not mistake bad behaviour for a bad person. Behaviour can be changed, if you reward good behaviour with love. So love your children.Love your friends. Love the people who hurt you, because they only did it because they felt unloved to begin with…

Tell them how much you care. Forget your OWN feelings of being unloved, and just love them anyway. Because making someone feel unloved will never solve any problems. It will only make them bigger.

Forget that Facebook crap of posting random pictures of your own favourite cartoon character. That won’t make someone hug their kid instead of slapping them. That won’t stop a mother from kicking her 16 year old out of the house in the name of “being firm”. Instead, wait until your kid pisses you off. Then tell them that you love them and that their behaviour makes you feel unloved. And all the useless bickering in the world can be solved in that one moment.