All We Need Is Love?

Note: On the fourth Tuesdays, I’m starting a new blog series on the Fruit of the Spirit, taking us through the nine character traits and applying that to raising kids.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

The world is in love with love, and not just around Valentine’s Day either. The idea that if we just had enough love, everything would be okay isn’t a new one. People have been thinking that for centuries.

We also tend to think of love as strictly a feeling. That means, if we don’t feel in love, we’re not in love. We enjoy the feeling of being in love, but that feeling isn’t the most reliable. It can lead us astray, can cause untold trouble, and can break up marriages and families.

Jesus taught us the true meaning of love in his reply to the question of which was the greatest commandment: “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 (ESV)

That kind of love is more than a feeling—it’s an active, living and breathing love. How can we teach our children the true meaning of love like that? Here are a few thoughts.

Show them love. Kids need to see an active love, so while telling them we love them is important, so is showing them we love them. That means fixing their favorite meals, listening with our full attention, going to see them play or perform, allowing them to invite friends over, spending one-on-one time with them on a regular basis, and giving them hugs frequently.

Correct them when they do wrong. An active love also isn’t afraid to correct the loved one. Some parents have a hard time with discipline because they think if they punish a child for misbehavior, the child will interpret that as the parents not loving them. But proper, effective discipline can’t exist without love.

Love your spouse. We can’t get so immersed in the daily tasks of raising kids to forget to love our spouse in an active, vibrant way. Our kids should see us get mushy with our husbands or wives. Our kids should know without a doubt how much mom and dad love each other. Seeing that married love played out in technicolor in their living room and around the dinner table will go a long way to showing kids what real love looks like.

Talk about what loves means. True love isn’t easy. It isn’t here today and gone tomorrow. It’s persevering through the tough times. It’s overcoming heartache and misery. It’s forgiving and letting go. It’s mercy and grace. Helping kids to understand the many facets of love will help them learn to identify the real thing from the many imitations they will encounter.

All we do need is love—true, active love.

Lovely Expressions–February 2015 Issue of Practical Parenting

We love our kids, even when they drive us crazy. Even when we’re tired after being up all night with the baby. Even when they upchuck all over us right before we leave for a business meeting. Even when they squabble and nitpick with each other. Even when they leave the front door open on a cold winter’s day for the hundredth time.

While most of us verbally tell our kids how much we love them, we also need to show them through our actions that we love them. If life has shown us anything, it should be that a person can’t be loved too much.

During this month of celebrations of love, here are 8 simple ways you can express love to your children.

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/
Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/
  1. Love them differently. Let’s face it, we don’t love our kids the same. And we shouldn’t because each one is unique. We should love our children because they are our kids but more importantly, for who they are. So tell them, “I love you because….” Be specific. Let them know what you see in them that floods your heart with love.
  1. Express it without words. Hugs, kisses, touches, looks—all of the nonverbal things we do to show love we should do with our kids. Let them feel the warmth of our affection in the ways that we interact with them, such as snuggling together while reading a book, holding a hand while walking down the sidewalk, tucking a note into their lunch box or backpack and initiating a tickle fight. Don’t let a child’s age stop you from showing affection, even if the teen doesn’t seem to appreciate it at the time.
  1. Schedule regular one-on-one time. From a book at night to a breakfast out, spending time individually with our children can be a wonderful way to show them we love them. Make a point to do this on a regular basis with each of your children. For example, we have a rotating schedule of “Breakfast With Mom or Dad” for our one-on-one time. The calendar listing the dates and who goes with who is posted on the fridge to help remind all of us of those special times.
  1. Tell your story. Know what makes children feel safe and secure? The knowledge that their parents love each other. So from time-to-time, share with the kids how you met, what you love about your spouse. Show affection for your husband and wife in front of the kids.
  1. Share “their” story with them. All kids love to hear how they arrived in the world, what their first words were, what life was like for them as a baby or young child. Part of how we show our love to them is to telling them their “own” story. You can augment with photos or home movies, but the important thing is to make sure each one has a chance to be the “star” of our family history.
  1. Go on dates with your spouse. Wait a minute, how does this show love to our kids? By instilling in them the importance of your relationship with your husband and wife—which helps to underscore the love you have for each other and for your children.
  1. Show up at events, games, activities, etc. Be part of their life. This doesn’t mean you have to go to every practice, but it does mean you make an effort. For example, I don’t volunteer for every opportunity at school, but I do make a point to do so a few times a year, and that helps the kids know I think they are important—and loved.
  1. Ask them about their lives. Give your kids a chance to tell you about their day, about their passions, about their dreams or fears or concerns or fun stuff. This involves listening, asking questions, and paying attention—without consulting your computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. Knowing you care enough to give them your full attention can be priceless to a child.