Love in such a way that the person you love feels free
This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh is, hands down, one of my favorites.
And it has been a real doozy to apply in my parenting. You see, I have twins, a girl and a boy. My son is laid back and easy going. My daughter, on the other hand, is all fire and will. She came in that way. She speaks loud, moves with determination, and embodies her name which means "limitless, without borders," in Hindi.
Both of my children delight me. But she challenges me to dig deep into the idea of loving them in such a way that THEY feel free.
All of life, after all, yearns to feel free, and my daughter is no exception. She balks at any hint of restriction.
Yet I have three responsibilities to my children: to love them, to educate them and to protect them. And limits and boundaries are an integral part of keeping them healthy and safe.
So, what I've learned after countless battles of wills, is that the secret to dealing with a headstrong child is giving her choices, without giving her everything she wants.
The human brain develops from back to front, so physiologically my 3-year-old daughter is operating from a place of impulse and "I want." At core though, what she really wants is to be seen, heard and appreciated for who she is. And by giving her a controlled set of options to choose from (even at 3), like what she wears each day, she comes to know herself as a person with agency in the world. To know herself as free.
That is love without limit.