FIFTEEN WAYS TO SAY,”I LOVE YOU” TO YOUR CHILD – Part 1 (By Janine Mick Wills)
While this list is directed toward children who still live at home, you can (and should!) adapt it for your adult children. Though the latter don’t need us in the capacity they once did, they still need to know you love and care for them.
- Don’t ridicule your child’s friends – This becomes more important the older the child is. You should be concerned and monitor your children’s friends, but this is water to tread lightly.
As a child matures, she begins to identify more with her friends than with her parents. Though this natural occurrence is necessary, parents fear (rightly so) the influence those friends may have.
But since the child’s identity is interconnected with her friends, an attack on them is also an attack on her.
Sure, you can go in guns ablazin’ and yell, “You are not going to see so-and-so anymore. Enough said.” But that approach may alienate her to the extent, she no longer listens to you concerning anything.
It takes great wisdom and finesse for a parent to keep the lines of communication open with a child. Here are some suggestions:
- Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).
- Ask questions, give the child time to answer, and don’t ridicule her opinion. None of us likes to have our opinions shot down: right, wrong, or otherwise. I often find myself agreeing with a person, who disagreed with me, only after I’ve had time to process what that person said. Give your child the same luxury.
- Entertain your child’s friends in your home. This not only allows you to monitor what’s going on, it also allows you to minister to the friends, especially if they are unsaved.
- Don’t be afraid to set limits or put your foot down, but do it in an acceptable way. I’ve told several family members with the gift of discernment (the ability to see right and wrong), “You are right. But if you can’t express your opinion in a way that is acceptable to the other person, what good is it?”
- On the other hand, as your child’s guide and protector, don’t be afraid to firmly say, “No!” You are responsible for your child until she leaves home. Sometimes it’s necessary to demand.
- Give a Bible reason for your demands. A child can argue with you, but she can’t argue with God’s Word and win. If she’s saved, the Word of God will convict her (John 16:8).
Allowing your child to express her views shows you value her individuality and accept her ability to make decisions (I didn’t say those decisions would always be right). But grant her the growing-up process of making them).
The questions she asks herself demand answers. The answers may help her see a situation in a new light, plus give her confidence she can solve her own problems.
- Make meals and snack time fun/special – Facebook and Pinterest are flooded with fun ways to fix food (I especially like the octopus cut from a hotdog). I send these to my daughter, who has three children under the age of six (and one on the way!).
The Internet did not exist when I reared my kids (Yes, I’m ancient!). Since I’m not creative, I did my best to liven up meals and snack time. I made a mistake telling the kids No-Bake cookies were cow patties. It took a long time before they would eat those lumpy, brown cookies!
Those veggies that look like dinosaurs, the sandwiches in shape of a spaceship, and a special meal on your child’s birthdays go a long way in showing how much you care.
- Touch your child – A heartfelt hug, a pat on the back, and/or a massage shows your child how much you care, plus elevates stress for both of you. Our children are bombarding with more evil than when we were young. Since children are not mature enough to process that, they tend to bottle up their concerns. Your touch can help your child to relax and feel safe. This, in turn, gives you a feeling of well-being.
The older a child is, the less likely she wants to be touched, especially in public. But this is a time when she possibly needs it the most. If you’ve not shown physical love to your older child in a while, start slowly. She may withdraw if you come on like a house a’ fire. Before long she will want your touch in subtle and possibly not so subtle ways.
- Give your child quality time – In this busy world, we sometimes give our kids quantity time that is not qualitative. We need to spend as much time as possible with our children, but when we can’t, we need to make those pockets of time count.
This means shutting out your world and devoting that time TOTALLY to your child. No phones, work, or personal agendas. Look your child in the eyes and pay attention. Children aren’t dumb. They know when you’re not paying attention to them. Ask questions, then give them time to answer. When you give your opinion, do it in a question (i.e. “So, you got a C on your Math quiz. Did you have a bad day? What do you think you could have done to improve that score? What can I do to help you improve?”) This allows the child to come up with the answer herself, which boosts her self-confidence.
- Let your child help with chores – Little children especially like to help around the house. Yes, it’s MUCH easier to do it yourself. But you miss training and bonding opportunities if you don’t let them help. Plus, it builds self-esteem if you couple your child’s help with honest and sincere praise.
Take heart. With enough time and patience, your child will be doing things exactly like you! (Now, that’s sobering!) And trust me, soon enough they will be gone, and you’ll be doing all the chores yourself anyway!
- Pray with them and for them (James 5:16) – The Devil wants your children (John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.)! That in itself should drive you to your knees to intercede on their behalf. Only heaven will reveal the number of times a mother’s prayers protected her children!
- Help your child build independence and self-confidence – An independent and self-confident child fairs a better chance of saying, “No” to the Devil, not conforming to the world, and not compromise her standards.
Your job, sad as it may be, is to prepare your children to leave home. It’s more difficult for them if they’ve not been allowed to make their own decisions (and mistakes!) They continually look for validation or someone else to make their decisions.
Your child IS going to make mistakes. You did as a child, and you still do as an adult. This is how we learn. Understand failure is an event; not a person. We often throw out the baby with the bathwater. Be careful not to correct your child for an honest mistake and that does not involve sin. There’s a BIG difference between her accidently spilling her milk, and her outright refusal to heed what you say. Also, remember, that the younger the child, the shorter their retention. You might have said something ten times, but she honestly forgot. If you take the time to know your child, you can tell when she makes an honest mistake or intentionally chooses to sin. If you continually punish your child for things she can’t help and are part of her learning process, she will get discouraged and quit trying.
You can continue this list at “Fifteen Ways to Say, ‘I Love You’ (Part 2)“.