Recently I read a great book called Love Bombing: Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat by Oliver James. It’s a very easy read with lots of stories of Love Bombing in action. I love stories so I zipped through it! In this post, I’m going to give you a quick summary of what’s involved. It feels doable to me but challenging! I’m up for giving it a shot though!
So what’s Love Bombing? Well, the basic idea is that children need love & control in order to thrive. And that parent-child relationships create the model for all future relating- no pressure then!! So Love Bombing is a very specific process that you go through. It’s very important to go through all the steps for it to be most effective. It may seem to fly in the face of common sense (I tend to be quite suspicious of a lot of common sense though!). Some common sense approaches advise more parental control, firmer limits, consequences etc. But have you ever noticed how you have to gradually increase the strength of the consequences to get your child to comply? Hmm- not sure about that as a long term strategy! And I never feel great if all I have are threats!
So here are the Love Bombing (LB) steps:
#1 Set aside the time
It’s not quality time but something very distinctive where you set aside a period of time where you & your child will be together (one parent). You could go away for a night or two or you could do this at home either. The LB zone is separate from ordinary life but LB-ing does feed back onto normal life & supposedly reduces the amount of nagging & limit setting needed. Explain to your child that you’re going to give them 48 hours of feeling in Total Control & Having Unconditional Love- what’s not to love, right?!! I’d love this myself!! Explain to your child that sometime soon you’re going to spend X amount of time together & are going to have lots of fun. She’s going to decide what she wants & when she wants it, within reason: you give the message that this is going to be a Big Event, It’s Coming Soon- How Exciting!
At least one week beforehand you ask: What are the things that you most want to do in the world? You tell her that you’ll do your best to arrange for that to happen. You build up to the event by saying ‘We’re going to have Total Time together- let’s make a plan of all the things you would really really like to do.’ She then draws up a list. It doesn’t matter if it involves lots of watching Peppa Pig or board games- the key is that the child has chosen it. During the experience, you’re trying as much as possible to give her the feeling that ‘whatever I want, I get’- a very unusual experience for children of being in control and of being gratified. And a challenging one for parents!
#2 Your child gives the time a special name
Your child decides what to call the time. So it could be mummy time or mummy and me time. It doesn’t really matter what the name is. The important thing is that it’s the child who gives it the name. You don’t have to settle this right away & your child can change the name, but the crucial thing is that it comes from the child, not the parent. She may have a shorthand title for it beforehand which alters during the experience. The important thing is that afterwards this label will instantly recall the experience.
#3 Who’s in control?
In this period of time, your child decides everything from when both of you eat, what you eat, what you do with the time- everything! Don’t freak out…..yet! You do agree some basic ground rules beforehand for example, it can’t be a trip to Disneyland, or a ride on a space ship, nothing dangerous, & so on. So it might be going to the park for however long the child wants to go for. It could be going swimming. It could be eating out. It could be watching a movie together. He says that generally children don’t actually ask for a lot when they have realised how exciting and different from the norm this is going to be. He suggests that where you hit limits (financial or practical), you have to be crafty. A demand to eat huge quantities of crappy sweets can be side-stepped by finding ones that are free of additives.
#4 Hugs and kisses
During the time you are to express a lot of affection towards your child; lots of hugs, kisses, telling them you love them just the way they are, what you appreciate about them. This may feel a little uncomfortable at first but you need to persist. This part is all about distilling an experience of what it was like to bask in feeling loved & looked after safely and reliably, when much smaller. If you go away for the night, he suggests sharing the bed as this encourages the child to relax & feel safe, like a small child again. He also suggests thinking of your child as an 18 month old for much of the LB period. Children often revert to being like a toddler, cuddling & even using baby talk. This is exactly what you are aiming for. You’re trying to give the the chance to go back to earlier periods, but this time it is really, really good: she feels totally safe, loved, and in control.
#5 A symbol
Then your child needs to buy or make or get some item that represents the time. It could be a stone or a shell from the beach or a small soft toy. The idea here is that when back in reality, your child sulks or loses their temper, you can get out this prop to trigger talk and feelings about the Special Time.
#6 When you get home
Now you need to set aside 30 minutes of Special Time (or whatever your child calls it), each day. This is to reignite the safe feeling. Again, it’s fine if it’s just watching TV because you can snuggle up together while doing this.
So that’s it! What do you think? Is this something you could do? I’m going to give it a go and will report back as to how it went! There are lots of stories of different scenarios in the book from two nights away to shorter bursts like 30 minutes in the morning.
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