Love is a funny thing. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be there when you want it. Sometimes you give it, and it doesn’t seem to be returned. Sometimes, though, there is that perfect match where two people love each other, express it, and both feel it. While this sounds like the story of romantic love, it is also about love between children and their parents.
This month’s article talks about three ways to show your children that you love, care for and respect them. Like much of the information given in The Informed Parent, the ideas are simple. They are not always easy to put into practice and require time and patience to perfect. Most of us need to make a lifelong practice of showing our love so that it can be received.
By showing love through listening, giving time, and acknowledging, connection is made and love can be felt.
When asked what they would most like from another, most people say, “I’d like to be listened to.” Like adults, children want to be heard. How many times has your child said, “You never listen to me?” or “Why don’t you listen to me?” Truly hearing what another is saying takes time.
Make a commitment to take some time each day to focus solely on your child and what she is saying. Have eye contact with her. If she is talking about a problem or expressing a feeling, reflect back to her in your own words what you’ve heard her say. If she is engaging you in simple conversation about her day or about something she did, provide clues that you are listening such as nodding affirmatively or saying, “Hmmm.” At the end of the conversation tell her that you’ve appreciated talking with her.
Time is precious. You may feel that you don’t have enough in a day to do all that needs to be done. Nothing is more important, though, than giving focused time each day to your children. It could be as much as an hour or two, or as little as 20 minutes. The trick is to give only as much as you can--with joy. If you resent or are uncomfortable with the amount of time you’re giving, it’s too much. Children know when you really want to be with them and when you’re doing it because you think you should.
Part of effective parenting is additional listening and visiting time given by conversing or playing word games in the car, taking part in your child’s pretend play while you’re cooking, or talking as a family during dinner. This, in top of individual attentive time show love.
Acknowledgment of others comes easily to some. There are those, however, who have a hard time letting others know that they are appreciated. Sometimes parents say, “Why do I have to thank or recognize my child for what she ought to be doing?” The answer is because acknowledgment of children is like honey to bees. They thrive on it.
Everyone likes to be noticed for what they do well. Even recognition for what could be done better is valuable. When your child does something that you know she could do better, you might say something like, “Thank you for tidying your room. Next time please put everything where it belongs instead of pushing some of it under your bed.” This tells her you notice her attempt but also know that she hasn’t really done the job well. Honesty in acknowledgment is necessary.
For most of us, the phrase, “I love you” warms our heart. Unless behavior backs up the statement, though, the words ring hollow. One time a wise person said to me, “Watch the behavior. It tells the story.” When what you do matches what you say, your children will know that you love, care for, and respect them.