FIFTEEN WAYS TO SAY, “I LOVE YOU” TO YOUR CHILD – Part 2 (By Janine Mick Wills)
As with “Twenty Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ (Parts 1)” and “Twenty Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ (Parts 2)” to your husbands, this list extended past my original intent. So, I also divided it into two parts. If you haven’t read “Fifteen Ways to Say, ‘I Love You’ (Part 1)”, to your children, click here.
8. Show interest in your child’s interests – I know this is hard. We are either not interested or are too busy. But your child feels loved when you pay attention to her interests.
I love spending time with my grandchildren. I tell my kids I’d be a better parent now than when they were little. I’ve matured (Or so I’d like to think!), I’m more relaxed, and I realize relationships are more important than doing and having things.
I pass this realization on to my grandchildren. I stop what I’m doing and give them my undivided attention. If Ryland wants to show me his new Leg-o set, I’m all in. If Levi wants to explain how something works, I show interest and ask questions. If Madison, who is almost a teen, wants to say ANYTHING, I listen. I tell her father, my son, to ALWAYS listen to her. This way she’ll know no matter what, he will try to understand her point of view.
⇑ My daughter and three of my five grandchildren
9. Let your child know you love her father – My childhood wasn’t ideal. Looking back, I realize my parents did the best they could with what they knew. But the thing I remember most is how much they fought. To this day, loud voices and conflict make me cringe.
I knew my mother didn’t care for my father. This led me to believe he didn’t care for me (I was the product of an out-of-marital relationship). This made it hard to believe anyone could unconditionally love me (See “Does God Really Love Me”).
If you love your child’s father, your child will grow up with a healthy view of love and relationships. More importantly, your child will acknowledge a heavenly Father Who loves her.
What do you do if your child’s father no longer lives at home? Or what do you do if you think there is no way you could love or forgive him? Here are some suggestions:
- Love and forgive him for Christ’s sake (1 John 4:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye).
- Keep the lines of communication open with him.
- Include him in decisions you make on your child’s behalf.
- Don’t talk negatively about him. This may be difficult if you harbor bitter feelings toward him. See “Let All Bitterness Be Put Away” for help.
- Bring up his good qualities. You might not see them now, but there was a time when you did. Share those.
- Share your child’s day-to-day events with him. Your child needs to know he still cares and is interested in her.
Please note!!! If you fear physical and/or verbal abuse from your ex-husband or father of your child, this situation needs counseling and/or outside intervention!
10. Help your child develop her talents – God has given all of us talents – Matthew 25:15 (See “Consider This First When Goal Setting”). As a parent, you will notice them before anyone else. Cultivate and help your child develop them. They could be used for the Lord one day!
11. Encourage your child – “No” is the easiest word to use in the English language. It also is the most discouraging. How many times do you say it to your child? Sometimes it’s necessary, and sometimes it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary. But if your child hears, “No” most of the time, she will not only learn to tune you out, she will also believe she can’t do anything right.
As the curator of your child’s self-esteem, it’s up to you to help your child believe in herself. She will never learn to love others if she hasn’t learned to love herself (Mark 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these). This is so important, Christ called it the second greatest commandment.
12. Learn your child’s love language – I am careful to not pigeon-hole anyone. We are all works in progress, who develop over time. But there are certain innate qualities and characteristics God has given us.
It could prove helpful to read The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman (You can purchase it at Amazon.com. As with any book, ask God to help you discern what is and isn’t beneficial). In it Mr. Chapman states different people express love and want love expressed in different ways.
- Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments or words of appreciation
- Quality Time – Giving undivided attention
- Receiving Gifts – Visual symbol of love
- Acts of Service – Pleasing another by serving/doing things
- Physical Touch – Communicating emotional love through physical means
Take my family for an example. My husband Jeff and oldest son Jason love undivided, quality time. When I visit Jason, I love to go outside and walk around the house with him. He tells me what he’s recently planted and how things are growing. This invariably leads to personal topics. Something that rarely happens if we just “chat”.
My daughter Jennifer and I share “Acts of Service”. We both feel loved and special when someone does something for us. Plus, we both show our love for others by doing things for them. I’d much rather have my husband feed and water the chickens than bring home a new dress or jewelry!
Jared, my youngest, revels in physical touch. As a child, he loved to horse around, jump on his father’s back and tackle him. At the time, Jeff didn’t always appreciate it. Now, he realizes Jared shows and likes to receive love by touching. In his 30s, Jared still enjoys giving big bear hugs and wrestling his dad.
It might take some detective work to discover your child’s mode of showing and receiving love. But it will be well worth the effort.
13. Tell your child that you love her often – This should go without saying, but we get busy or assume our child already knows. There is nothing quite like a heartfelt, sincere, “I love you,” followed with a form of gentle, physical contact (See Way #3). It takes only a moment but reaps a lifetime of benefits.
14. Discipline your child in private – Discipline is absolutely necessary if you are to raise a responsible child, who will one day accept Christ as Savior (Proverbs 19:18; 23:14). But there are three reasons not to do it in public:
- Sad to say, but someone might report you to Child Services.
- It embarrasses your child, which hurts your bond.
- If you are angry, it gives you time to regain your composure before doling out punishment.
That being said, there are times when discipline must be swift (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The younger the child, the more this is true. The little darling may forget what she did before you get home. If you have to correct an infraction away from home, remove your child from prying or inquisitive eyes. This is for your child’s sense of well-being and your protection from a “well-meaning” interloper.
15. Love your God supremely – My parents did not accept Christ until their 60s. I don’t remember them presenting God in a positive and loving light. My mom took us to Sunday school, but she didn’t attend church herself and not once did I see her or Daddy pray. I knew there was a God, but I had no role models of which to base my spirituality.
I compare that to the relationship my daughter has with her God. Jeff was a loving father, who hugged and told Jennifer over and over how much he loved her. Not once did Jennifer doubt his love. This carried over to her relationship with her heavenly father. I envy that. It’s something I struggle with to this day: to trust a male-figure head and believe he loves me.
1 John 4:20 says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” If we cannot show and tell our children we love them, how can we show and tell God the same? A healthy relationship with God will translate to your children’s relationship with Him.
I hope these “Fifteen Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ ” to your children will strengthen your relationship with your child/children. I wish I’d known them when I was a young mother. But God graciously gave me a deep and still abiding love for my three children. I am truly blessed they call me “Mom” (or “Momma”). And when it comes down to it, isn’t that all we mothers want?