From the moment our children become our children, one of the undoubtedly most important jobs we have as parents is to show them that they are loved. We do that in different ways throughout their lives. Love can look like skin-to-skin snuggles for newborns, clean diapers and endless rounds of peek-a-boo for babies, bottomless snacks and books for toddlers, new toys and outside time for kids, quality time for preteens, and sincerity and honesty for teenagers.
A job that is almost as important as assuring our children that we love them is making sure that they know that we like them, too.
The love a parent feels for their children is (pretty much) unconditional. Yet there may be times when you fall out of “like” with them. When your babies won’t sleep through the night for months on end and are fussy from exhaustion; it can be hard to like everything about them. When your children won’t eat anything you prepare and only say potty words; it can be hard to like everything about them. When your teenager rolls their eyes every time you speak and spends all of their free time in their room; it can be hard to like everything about them.
This is the time when we, as parents, are put to the test. This is when we need to push through and find something to like because we value a positive relationship with our children. Once we find something, we need to praise it, reward it, and celebrate it. Giggle with your babies when you tickle them. Say, “Wow, that girl is so brave, just like you!” during storytime with your toddlers. Sit and watch the baseball game with your preteen, asking him questions about the player on the pitcher’s mound. Find something that they like, and make it something that you both like.
One of the best ways to show love is to invest in learning your childrens’ “love languages,” a brilliant tool developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. These love languages categorize the most common ways we feel and show love. They are as follows:
- Quality Time: These individuals feel loved during the time spent one-on-one, engaged and attentive to them and their needs.
- Gifts: Although this might sound materialistic, what matters to these individuals is the intention and care put into a particular gift.
- Words of Affirmation: Encouraging words, compliments, and kind remarks make these individuals feel most loved.
- Acts of Service: These individuals feel loved when you do something for them that makes them feel valued and appreciated on a deep level.
- Physical Touch: Appropriate touches such as couch cuddles, hand holding, bed time snuggles, secret handshakes, hugs, and physical games like tag show these individuals love.
The more fulfilled your children are by the love that they receive, the more confident they will feel in your relationship. If you learn their love languages, you can show your love wisely. You can do little things, here and there, to remind them that you love who they are in a way that they understand.
As your children grow and mature, you will start to notice how they show love, as well. They might start requesting to ride along while you run errands, give you a beaded bracelet they made, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, give you sweet compliments, or hold your hand on walks. These can be early hints as to how they say, “I love you, too.”
Taking the time to learn how you and your family members show love and receive love can really help develop trust which will strengthen your family bond. It can help you learn how to make sure that your children know that they are not only loved but that they are liked. You don’t just love them because they are your children, but you like who they are as people.
They are unique and loveable people, and what makes them unique also makes them likable. They are worthy of like and of love. Having a firm foundation in that knowledge can set them up to know that they are worthy of like and love from their friends, authority figures, and most importantly, from their Creator, God.
As we are now in February, the month where we have a whole day dedicated to celebrating love, let’s make a pledge to strive to have our relationships with our children read like a love letter where the theme is, “I love you and I like you.”