Would You Love Bomb Your Child?
By Sarah Liebetrau - 9th August 2011
Oliver James is a UK-based clinical child psychologist who has recently written about a technique he calls ‘love bombing’ to help children overcome fears and anxieties that may be causing behavioural problems.
It works like this:
- Take the child away from the rest of the family for a weekend, two nights.
- Tell the child repeatedly that you love them, making sure to hug them and look them in the eyes for long periods.
- Sleep with them in your bed at nights, during the day tell them that this is their special time and that you will do whatever they want.
- On return to normal life, create a 30 minute slot each evening with a label they have chosen, like ‘mummy time’, in which you repeat the same formula in condensed form.
James says that this technique can solve many common behavioural problems in children, giving them a feeling of security so that many of the fears and anxieties causing their behaviour can be allayed. He says that parents still need to set clear boundaries in day-to-day life and stick to them, but love bombing is a far preferable technique to punishments such as the naughty step and time out, or smacking. According to James, the results he has seen have been remarkable.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have one-on-one time with children. On my son’s birthday this year I told him he could have unlimited time on the Wii (his favourite screen-time activity) and unlimited treats. Although he spent the day with all of us as a family, it was his day and the usual limits didn't apply. It was a memorable day for him and I was happy for him to enjoy free reign for a day. As for allowing children to sleep in their parents' bed, our children both have queen-sized beds for the very purpose of parental accommodation so in that sense we ‘love bomb’ them whenever they ask for it.
I do wonder, however, if there is a danger in this approach. Over-simplifying the complex might provide a welcome panacea, but in my experience, anxieties can arise as a result of whatever is going on in the child’s day-to-day life, and I doubt this would be magically erased by one experience where the usual rules don’t apply. I think being in tune with your kids is so important and that's where, I think this ‘love bombing’ approach falls slightly short.
James does not advocate this approach in isolation, but there's a possibility his advice may be interpreted that way. I think the advice needs to be coupled with clear examples of how to maintain consistent boundaries so that it doesn’t get confused with general permissiveness. Clearly, letting children have whatever they want whenever they want it as a daily practice would do them no favours and wouldn't help rectify difficult behaviour. But I think there is merit in the basic premise that ‘love bombing’ (as a special one-off experience) is worth a try as an alternative to traditional punitive reactions to poor behaviour. I also believe keeping the lines of communication open so that children feel they can tell you the source of their worries at any time is crucial.
What do you think? Would you ‘love bomb’ your children? Does it strike you as a good alternative to punishment for bad behaviour?