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5 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child

The steps you take now will impact your connection in the future.

The goal of positive parenting is to build a deep, lifelong connection with your child. It’s the idea that while our primary role as parents may end when our children move out, we’re still a guiding presence in their lives. I don’t want to parent my children once they’ve stepped out on their own, but I do want to be there as a source of wisdom, support, and guidance when needed. 

Being a positive parent is about nurturing, empowering, and guiding while being nonviolent. You may be asking yourself, “Am I a positive parent?” I know I want to be. 

There are several key components to positive parenting. A positive parent:

  • Guides, leads, and teaches.
  • Is caring, empowering, consistent, and sensitive to a child’s needs.
  • Provides regular open communication, emotional security, and affection.
  • Recognizes the positive.
  • Respects the child’s developmental stage.
  • Sets boundaries and rewards accomplishments.
  • Shows empathy for the child’s feelings and supports the child’s best interests.

According to author L.R. Knost, “respecting children teaches them that even the smallest, most powerless, most vulnerable person deserves respect, and that is a lesson our world desperately needs to learn.”

Here are some ways being a positive parent can create a lifelong connection with your child:

1. Teach them how to do age-appropriate tasks.

When I ask my kids to do something around the house, and they say, “I don’t know how,” I hear a teaching opportunity. It can be hard to slow down, but helping them learn how to do something new builds their confidence. When you teach them, they’re also learning how to make good choices. When we don’t teach, they become reliant on us or others to do things for them.

2. Give them autonomy (within reason, of course).

Let’s talk about parenting toddlers. If you aren’t there yet, just hang on and get ready for some exciting years. Between the ages of 2-5, both my kids pushed for independence and autonomy. They wanted to be the king or queen of their own world. Aren’t we the same? We don’t want other people running our lives. Look for opportunities to give your child autonomy. Put them in charge of a household chore, let them choose dinner one night, or let them choose their clothes. There’s nothing like going to Lowe’s when your daughter’s in her entire ladybug outfit…been there recently and have the pictures to remember it. Giving them independence promotes creativity, empowerment, and self-determination.

3. Reward positive behavior.

I’ve often heard it said, “What gets recognized, gets repeated.” My son just wrapped up a great baseball season and aced a test in third grade. We rewarded him for excelling in school and on the ballfield by going to a local baseball card store. He’s totally into baseball cards right now, so we let him choose a box of cards. He had bad games and some weeks where he didn’t do well on quizzes, but we didn’t punish him for those times. We just encouraged him to do his best and understand that sometimes bad days happen. But he knows what it takes to get rewarded, and he’ll work toward that again. 

4. Be a positive role model.

Your children are listening and watching. Remember, more is caught than taught. They see how we treat others, our work ethic, and our kindness or the lack of it. If you want to raise adults who positively contribute to society and care about their neighbors, you’ve got to model that behavior now.

5. Make positive family experiences a priority.

Our kids don’t need extravagance; they need us to create memories with them. I can’t count the number of times my daughter brings up something seemingly small we’ve done as a family. To her, it was impactful. Take a neighborhood walk together, get ice cream after school, or do something for someone else. When we prioritize creating positive memories as a parent, we’re building a lifelong connection with them.

Parenting is challenging, but connecting with your child doesn’t have to be. Be caring, teach, lead, communicate, and provide. Take steps today to build a lifelong connection with your child as a positive parent. 

Other helpful blogs:

How Positive Parenting Impacts a Child’s Risk of Substance Abuse

100 Conversation Starters To Increase Your Family’s Connectedness

Five Simple Things You Can Do To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

Being a parent comes with great responsibility. It’s our duty and privilege to shape the next generation to be healthy and thriving. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. And there are positive parenting things we can do for our little ones now that will help prepare them to make good decisions, feel confident, and avoid creating bad habits like substance abuse in the future.

A study by the University of Otago in New Zealand has found that positive parenting can have numerous positive benefits for children. A team led by Professor Joe Boden analyzed data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which has followed the lives of more than 1000 people born in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1977.

Before we go too deep here, let’s answer the question, “What is positive parenting?”

Positive parenting focuses on encouragement and support rather than punishment to teach appropriate behavior. Psychology Today links positive parenting to “higher school grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance abuse, better mental health, greater social competence, and more positive self-concepts.”

Professor Boden’s team found that adolescents living in a more positive environment:

  • Had lower alcohol and substance abuse rates.
  • Experienced fewer mental health issues and less general stress.
  • Were less likely to experience unemployment. 

The Christchurch Study provided extensive information about the participants’ lives, including: 

  • Their exposure to violence and substance issues. 
  • How they perceived their parents’ parenting style. 
  • Alcohol use and abuse scores at specific ages. 
  • The impact of parenting style on alcoholism.

The team was especially interested in the correlation between positive parenting and a lesser risk of alcoholism. The study shows that parenting style could be far more impactful in people’s tendency toward alcohol or other substances than having access to it. 

Several studies have shown that positive parenting has even more far-reaching effects. 

Here are some ways that you can be a positive parent:

Build strong bonds.

Strong emotional bonds help create a safe base for kids to learn, explore, and relate to others. Experts call this “secure attachment.” Securely attached kids are more likely to handle challenges positively and learn how to manage their feelings and behaviors, and develop self-confidence. Through positive engagement with parents, kids learn to follow the rules and regulate their emotions.

Be available.

Life is full of distractions from numerous priorities, extra work, and technology. When we’re emotionally and physically available to our kids, this helps them bond, develop language skills, and learn to interact socially. We need to communicate that our kids are valuable and important with our time. When we are stretched for time, we must take a moment and explain to our kids why we can’t spend the time with them that we’d like — and express that we don’t value them any less and will be more available to them soon.

Establish mutual respect.

Mutual respect is a cornerstone of positive parenting. Parents help kids understand why rules are made. When children understand the why for rules, they’re more willing to follow them. It can also help parents understand any misbehavior. Because of a stronger bond, parents are more likely to notice stressors impacting their children. Through this, parents and kids can learn  to be more empathetic and better understand others.

Be a positive role model.

One huge rule of parenting is, “More is caught than taught.” We’ve all heard that phrase, but it’s the essence of parenting. If we respond to our kids in frustration and negativity, they’ll do the same to others and to us. How we respond to our kids’ challenging behaviors really does teach them how to react to others. Research shows that parental modeling impacts behaviors associated with alcohol and substance abuse. 

Build higher self-esteem.

Positive parenting says there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviors. The focus is on learning for the future. Instead of yelling when a child misbehaves, a positive parent responds calmly, explaining why the behavior isn’t acceptable and what the consequences are. This process helps a child learn to make better choices down the road. Mistakes are learning opportunities for all of us.

By being positive parents, we can equip our children with the skills they need for future success. We can teach them to make wise decisions. And, we can help them avoid pitfalls along the way. If you don’t see yourself as a positive parent, it’s never too late to start.

Other helpful blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent

How To Encourage Your Child’s Strengths

Why Do Secure Relationships Matter for Children?

How Do I Make My Child Feel Secure?

Is Your Child Depressed?

You have what it takes to support your child.

As a parent, you’re constantly looking for things that can harm your child. Remember the “baby-proofing” you did? If you’re anything like me, you actually got on the floor to scope out things that could potentially harm your little one. Well, as they grow, so does your intuition. Maybe you’ve got a “gut feeling” that something is going on, which can be more challenging to handle. You start to see new behaviors or don’t see actions you’re used to seeing. You may wonder, “Is my child depressed?”

Facts on Childhood Depression

It’s common for kids to feel all kinds of emotions due to family situations. For example, a loved one’s death or moving away from friends and family may cause sadness and grief. But because there’s a range of severity in depression, it’s essential to know the difference between simply being sad and being clinically depressed. 

According to the CDC, 3.2% of children ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with depression. Your child’s pediatrician can be an excellent resource for you.

How You Can Help

First, strengthen your relationship with your child by communicating. Instead of doing most of the talking, ask questions and listen to what’s happening in their lives. Be curious about their friends, school, and social media. If your child has been through any significant changes, give them space to process. Still, continue to monitor what they watch on television or streaming services and what they search for online. Pay attention to their sleeping and eating habits. (Read How to Prevent Depression From Affecting Your Child.)

Signs to Look For (from CDC website)

Depressed children show several behaviors that are pretty consistent and persistent over time. According to the CDC, the actions include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
  • Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
  • Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
  • Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
  • Having a hard time paying attention
  • Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
  • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
  • Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior

(Please note: This list is ONLY for your awareness, Some of these symptoms may be part of normal development. Think growth spurt, hormones, etc.) This list is not for you to diagnose to confirm or deny what your “gut” feeling told you.  

How to Get Help

Perhaps you’ve monitored your child and kept an eye on their screen activity/social media. And now, you recognize that they have shown behaviors from that CDC list over time. What do you do?

First, call your child’s primary care provider. Your child’s doctor can help rule out any physical causes like low Vitamin D, anemia, or something else. Your pediatrician may do a behavioral screening. 

If nothing physical is going on, seeking out a mental health professional who specializes in children might be your next step. Your pediatrician can recommend what to do and where to go from there. 

Parenting is the most challenging job on the planet. You feel totally responsible for another person. You feel the need to protect your child from anything that can hurt or harm them. But when you can’t do that, you may feel guilty, like it’s your fault that this thing happened or that you’re a terrible parent. 

I’ve been there, too. But here’s the deal: we can’t control or prevent anything from happening in our child’s life, no matter how hard we try. If there’s a problem, the best thing we can do is get them the help they need. 

As you begin this journey, your child needs you to be their touchstone. Surrounding yourself with loving, supportive friends and family can build up your strength, but if it comes down to it, seek your own professional help. Continue to care for your own body by making sure you’re exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating right. You have what it takes to support your child.

Here we are at Christmas, supposedly “the most wonderful time of the year.” Children are wide-eyed in anticipation, excitedly telling their parents what they want Santa to bring them. On the other hand, parents are reeling amid the pandemic with too many unanswered questions to count. 

Let’s don’t even talk about finances. Or the pressure to make sure everything is in stock and ordered early enough to arrive on time. 

Give Something Different

Can we press the pause button for a minute? I think it might help to take a step back, breathe, and think about a few things. There are lots of voices telling your children what they should ask for this Christmas. While some of those Christmas gifts may be awesome, the truth is, what your child really wants for Christmas and what you actually end up giving your child this Christmas may be two very different lists. And for good reason.

I’ve been down the road of being really proud of myself for getting some of those begged-for items, only to see them sitting in the corner a few weeks into the new year.

After several years, it occurred to me: maybe those things aren’t really the best Christmas gifts I could give my child. That sent me down the trail of thinking about what I could give her that wouldn’t break, sit abandoned in the corner, or be returned to the store. Challenge accepted.

Give Something Meaningful

Here are some of the things we gave her through the years instead.

  • Coupon book. We made a coupon book with 20 or so different coupons for things like an ice cream date, getting out of a chore for a day, making your favorite dinner, popcorn and movie night, dessert before dinner, staying up past bedtime, and extra video game time.
  • Membership or passes to a children’s museum, aquarium, zoo, rock-climbing, zip-lining, or other attraction to stimulate both the brain and body.
  • Vision book. We asked people who knew our daughter well—teachers, friends, coaches, grandparents, neighbors—to write her a short note talking about the qualities they saw in her and giving her words of encouragement. I put all of the messages in a scrapbook and gave it to her. She’s all grown up, but that book is still with her.
  • Scavenger hunts and experiences. A wrapped box under the tree with a clue in it that led to the next clue somewhere around the house… which after numerous clues would lead to the gift. One year it was tickets to a concert we attended as a family. Another year, it was a weekend daddy-daughter trip. The goal was to create lasting memories instead of temporary excitement. I think it worked because we still talk about those experiences today.

Back to hitting the pause button. After a few Christmases, it occurred to me that each year around September, I started feeling significant stress about Christmas—shopping, finances, and attitude over gifts I bought that weren’t the right thing. I actually began to dread what was my favorite time of the year. Something had to give. That’s when we decided to do things differently.

Give Something That Lasts

In the end, I think we decided that not giving our daughter all the stuff on her list might have been one of the best Christmas gifts we gave her as her parents. You can’t buy the conversations and laughter around those memories. And they are there forever. 

They won’t ever put this on their Christmas list, but what children really want for Christmas is to know they are loved by their parents. Don’t expect a huge thank you for not getting everything on their Christmas list. That won’t happen for a long time—maybe never. But, coming up with creative ways to celebrate your child, creating memories with them, and showing them your unconditional love truly will be the most priceless gift you can give to them. You’ll never regret giving them that, and you don’t have to break the budget, wait for it to arrive in the mail, or get it at the mall.

Photo by Any Lane from Pexels

How to Raise a Generous Child

Practice these things all year long.

A while back, 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson made the news for helping an elderly gentleman down an escalator. When asked about what happened, he said his mother raised him to be nice and kind. 

“It’s really the way I was brought up and raised,” he said. Johnson went on to say that all the attention was very humbling.

The woman who witnessed the act posted it on social media. She ended her post by saying, “Whoever this young man is, YOUR FAMILY RAISED YOU RIGHT! THANK YOU! So, please look for the silver linings – as I was so fortunate to witness this evening.”

Most parents would hope their children would do the same thing if they found themselves in that situation, but who wants to leave it to chance?

There’s a good reason for teaching children how to be generous. Multiple studies found that generous people tend to be happier and are more likely to be healthier, friendlier, smarter, and stronger. 

Wondering exactly how to raise a generous child?

You can raise your child to be generous and cultivate generosity by putting these practices in place all year long.

  • Read “The Giving Tree” together.
  • Model generosity. Let your children see you being generous throughout the year. It doesn’t have to be huge. Get extra canned goods while grocery shopping and take the children with you to drop them off. Walk together as a family for a worthy cause or bake cookies and take them to your closest fire station or police precinct. 
  • Make it a part of your family’s DNA. Talk about what generosity looks like. Help them see the need and possibilities. Encourage them to help you make a family generosity plan.
  • Have a “Giving” jar. Once you have made your plan, let your children decorate a jar for collecting money throughout the year. Decide on a specific time when you will take the jar and be generous.
  • Expose your children to worlds beyond their own. Take your children with you to volunteer in places where they can meet the needs of others. All it requires is the gift of your time. You don’t have to have a lot of money to share your time.
  • Host Birthday Parties for a Cause. Many young people are asking for donations like dog food for the animal shelter, canned goods for a food bank, or blankets for a homeless shelter instead of birthday presents.
  • Make Blessing bags. As a family, you can put together blessing bags for the homeless and include things like socks, snacks, washcloth or wipes, lotion, shampoo, a package of tissues, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, conditioner, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and a bottle of water. You might want to add other things as you see fit.
  • Acknowledge when you see your children being generous. One way to encourage generosity is to call it out when you see it. Let your children know you noticed what they did. Ask them how it felt and what they learned from the experience.

Although the topic of how to raise a generous child seems to get a lot of play during the holidays, learning to be generous is a year-round effort. Generous children often become generous adults who give back to their community. Help your child discover that generosity is a gift you give to others as well as yourself.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Short answer: Show affection as much as you can. 

Often, we use the words “affection” and “love” interchangeably. While understandable, and they can certainly overlap, I’m going to make a distinction between love and affection. Affection is adoration, fondness, liking someone. So our question would change to: 

How much should I show my child that I adore them, I am fond of them and that I like them? 

See the difference that makes?

Or let me put it this way—a baby doesn’t understand the self-sacrificial love that you have for them deep in your heart, but just holding them and cuddling demonstrates affection. And they pick up on it. And it has long-term developmental consequences.

Or how about this? How would a teen receive an “I love you” if there was never any affection shown toward them? Those words would be meaningless.

Showing your child affection communicates security, belonging, acceptance, and that they are liked.

Sometimes as parents we stumble over the simplicity and the importance of showing affection. I hope my kids know and trust that I love them, but I also hope they know that I really like and enjoy them, too.

I have five kids. As babies, they were all held, snuggled, and rocked. There is no better feeling in the world than having one of my little babies asleep on my chest. My youngest is now 14. He was my only “snuggly” little one. 

Wow. Things are a lot different now. Showing affection evolves at different ages and stages as our kids grow up. My 14-year-old son doesn’t want to be “snuggled” and he definitely isn’t going to fall asleep on my chest. (Even hugs, if his friends are around, are kinda iffy.) But he appreciates a pat on the back after he mowed the yard or a hand on his shoulder if we are waiting in line. He really loves hearing that I noticed the heel-kick he did in a soccer game.

Each of my five children is a unique individual. Even when they were little, each had their own personality. One of the first parenting lessons I learned was that what one child needed in terms of affection from me was different from another child. I also learned that the ways I showed affection to them that seemed meaningful to me and came naturally to me did not necessarily translate into affection from my kids’ point of view, so I had to learn what they needed.

I had to spend time with each of them and learn about their individual hearts.

Some of the things I learned over time that have helped me figure out the best ways to express affection to my kids are:

Pay close attention to what they ask of you.

This can provide insights into how they receive affection. Do they ask:

  • You to come and play with them? Quality Time.
  • If you think the picture they drew is pretty? Affirmation.
  • If you can help with their hair? Touch.

Pay close attention to how they express affection to you.

This also provides insight into their heart and what means affection to them. Do they:

  • Want to sit in your lap and give you hugs?
  • Like to make things for you like drawing you a picture or bring you things like a dandelion? 
  • Tell you they like hanging out with you while you work on the car? 

★  Spend Time With Them.

  • Learn their “affection language.” When my daughter was about 5, I took her to a movie and put my arm on the back of her seat. She immediately asked me to move my arm. Point noted!
  • Let them set the agenda for what you do together. Get on the floor and play with their toys together. Watch them play video games. If you are present and engaged, you are saying you like them and like spending time with them. (Put your phone away.)
  • Take them with you to run errands or hang out with you while you’re working on stuff. Show that you just enjoy their company. Lots of bonding happens organically just being together.
  • Notice and express gratitude for the little things they do. Don’t reserve praise for big things. “Thanks for telling me a little about your day.” “I appreciate you helping bring the groceries in.” This communicates that you notice and like them.

Spend time with your child and become a student of their heart. Tell them that you love them but also tell them that you like them, you enjoy spending time with them, how proud you are of them, and that you believe in them. This all translates to affection to your child.

Many kids today don’t think their parents even like them, let alone love them. You are communicating how you feel about your kids all the time. And they are watching.

Image from Unsplash.com

No matter how you slice it, the birth of a child brings about changes that can be challenging. Here are some of the reasons why marriage can be harder after having a baby and how those challenges can make your marriage stronger.

  1. Unspoken Expectations. You probably have a picture in your mind of what your lives will look like after the baby is born. You might be expecting to split household duties, take turns sleeping, grow closer in your marriage, and agree on parenting decisions. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations however, disappointment and resentment can build. 
  1. Entering the Land of the Unknown. Between the internet, books, experienced parents, and doctors, you try and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible. And yet once the baby is here, you realize there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Disagreements arise as couples differ on how to tackle these issues that you simply didn’t see coming. 
  1. We’re Changing and So Are Our Needs. Maybe your wife used to like you to open the car door for her. Now, she’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the kids in their seats. Herr needs may change after the birth of a baby. Sometimes she might not be consciously aware of the changes. As your needs change, it’s so easy to focus on meeting your own personal needs after a baby is born that you lose sight of the changing needs of your spouse. How you help, support, and comfort one another looks different. Even how you respond when something triggers your emotions may change. There were times when I was so focused on my tiredness, schoolwork (I was in school), and my job that I resented my wife for not understanding and expecting more out of me than I thought I was fair.
  1. Lack of Intimacy. So much focused energy is on the baby, trying to get rest, work, and everything that comes with a newborn that marital tension can replace marital intimacy. Plus, after carrying a baby for 9 months and breastfeeding, lots of women don’t want any physical intimacy because they are totally exhausted. They want to heal.
  1. Emotional Exhaustion: You are not at your best when you are exhausted… and that’s understandable. A tired and stressed person trying to adapt to change doesn’t respond as well as a rested and peaceful person. Imagine if both of you are suffering from emotional exhaustion. The stage is set for irritability, aggravation, and a short fuse.

These are all challenges that can make your marriage stronger, as long as you don’t avoid dealing with them. It’s possible to address them and work as a team to transition into parenthood well. Here are a few things you can do as a couple:

  • Discuss Expectations. Conversations about balancing work and family are a great place to start. Nighttime feedings. Diaper changes. Household chores and responsibilities. Who will do what and who can we ask to help us? Think of grandparents and family. Talking through what you hope this will look like can help the two of you be on the same page as you navigate your new normal.
  • Remember What’s Important. Your baby doesn’t need perfectly-prepared parents for every situation. They need loving parents who are attentive. Figuring it out together can provide lasting memories. My wife and I have made tons of mistakes when all seven of our children were babies. There are some things you simply don’t know. Gather information, talk to one another, and do your best. When you or your spouse makes a mistake, you learn from it and everyone is better for it.
  • Talk Openly About What You Need From One Another. It’s hard to know what my spouse needs if she doesn’t tell me. I kept opening her car door until one day she said, “I’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the car cool.” I would’ve never known. Talking about our needs helps us ward off the resentment that builds. Trying to read someone’s mind can be harmful. Open communication is the only antidote.
  • Intentional Marriage Time. Do it, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to emotionally connect or hold one another. Virtual date nights are great for just a little marriage time. Don’t forget that your marriage needs both of you.
  • Lean In To Each Other. Lack of sleep is an obvious issue after having a baby, but I’m not going to tell you to get more of it. Sometimes that’s just plain impossible. Here’s what will be helpful to your marriage: Pay attention to each other. Help each other. Look for ways to support one another. In sports, the team that functions as a team in the fourth quarter when everyone is tired typically wins. You are that team. And winning as a team is sweet and exhilarating, especially when you’re tired.
  • Express Appreciation. It’s highly probable that each of you is doing things for the baby and the family that are going unnoticed. Look for those things and express gratitude.

Your love isn’t measured by every right decision you make. In fact, the best gift of love you can give your new baby is a healthy, thriving marriage, not a perfect one. 


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Pexels.com

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

Send the message they want and need to hear.

Of course my child knows I love them!” But do they? Really? To be clear, I’m not questioning whether you love your child; I’m questioning whether your child knows that you love them. Do they know how broad, wide, and deep your love is for them? There’s more to your child feeling loved than saying, “I love you! Goodnight!” every night.

Google Autocomplete can be illuminating. For those unfamiliar with it, as you begin typing a search into Google, Google begins to finish it for you with the most popular searches put into its search engine. So, typing, “How do I get my parents to” will autocomplete with the most popular searches that begin with the same phrase. This particular example is as heartbreaking as it is illuminating. 

The number one autocomplete is: How do I get my parents to love me?

★ What would lead kids, tweens, and teens to google ways to get their parents to love them? Is there a disconnect somewhere? Are we overestimating how much affection our kids feel? Are we not communicating love in ways that resonate with our kids? Some kids don’t even think their parents like them, let alone love them. Even if you feel confident that your child knows they are loved, there’s always room to learn more ways to deepen it.

Here’s How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

1. Understand Your Child’s Heart

  • Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a great book, The Five Love Languages of Children, that suggests we all communicate and receive love uniquely. Sometimes the way we communicate love doesn’t match up with how our kids “hear” love and we love right past them. We might be providing tons of loving, affirming words, but our child might really feel loved the most when we spend quality time with them. His website is really helpful and has great resources!
  • What do they ask of you? This can provide insights into how they receive affection. 
    • Do they ask you to come and play with them? (Love = Quality Time.) 
    • Do they ask if you think the picture they drew is pretty or if you are proud of their report card? (Love = Affirming Words.) 
    • Do they ask for help with homework or their hair? (Love = Helping Them.)
  • How do they express love and affection to you? This also provides insight into their heart and what says, “I love you” to them. 
    • Do they want to sit in your lap and give you hugs? (Love = Physical Connection.) 
    • Do they like to make things for you like drawing you a picture or bring you things like a dandelion? (Love = Gifts, Tokens of Affection.) 

2. Spend Time With Them.

  • We can kid ourselves by saying things like, “I don’t spend a lot of time with my kids, but when I do, I make it count.” It’s great to “make it count” (quality time) but our kids need “a lot” of time, too (quantity time). There really is no substitute. Kids spell “love,” T – I – M – E. 
  • Be intentional. Routines, rituals, and structure provide predictability and ultimately help kids feel safe. When children feel safe, they feel loved and can thrive. Regular parent/child dates. Dinner together as a family. Friday Night Game Nights. Appropriate  and consistent expectations communicate, “I love you and care about your wellbeing.” 

Look for and even plan for informal time together. Get on the floor and play with their toys with them. Watch them play video games. Take them with you to run errands or hang out with you while you’re working on the car. Lots of bonding happens organically just being together.

3. Expand The Bandwidth Of Your Communication

  • Your words are powerful. Not just what you say but how you say it. Remember, your body isn’t on mute. An angry “Because I said so!” could be a calm “Here’s why this is important…” Don’t underestimate the power of your words in forming your child’s perception of how you feel about them
  • Listen. Really listen. So many kids say their parents talk at them, not with them. You can’t make your child talk to you, but you can be present and create an atmosphere and relational environment where talking is much more likely to take place. Don’t be quick to jump in with a judgment or lecture.
  • Say, “I love you.” Not just at bedtime, but say it at times when they don’t expect to hear it—when they’ve done something wrong and have to be corrected, when they are down on themselves and don’t feel lovable, random times like car rides or when they are just walking across the room. It is important that children understand that there is nothing that they can do to make you love them more or love them less.
    • Other phrases that say “I love you” without saying “I love you.”
    • I believe in you.
    • I’m proud of you.
    • I’m always here for you.
    • I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

Whether you know it or not, you are always sending messages revealing how you feel about your kids—and they are paying attention. Think about that for a second. If you think it’s possible that your children might wonder how much you love them, you don’t have to let them wonder. Be intentional and talk with them about it. With loving your kids, make sure it’s a show AND tell.

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