And, make no mistake, I'm an advocate for parental authority & consistent discipline:
- Hone Your 'Mommy Radar'
- When the Person That "Wears the Pants" In the Family is a Size 2T
- 4 Questions To Help You Evaluate Parenting Advice
- Train Them Until You Like Them
But it made me think-- I am coming at these things from a perspective of having GREAT AFFECTION FOR my children, and lavishing GREAT AFFECTION ON my children every day. And, sadly, I am quite certain that not everyone nowadays knows what that looks like.
This greatly affects how parenting advice plays out in the life of a family. Consistent, biblical parenting is meant to be carried out in the context of a loving, affectionate relationship.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO SHOW LOVE TO YOUR CHILDREN
So let me share some of the *regular* forms of affection I share with my children (currently ages 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, and 8 months). Most of these are daily, a few might be once/week-type actions or activities:
- I tell them "good morning" every day, usually with a simple touch to the arm, or while smiling at them and cupping their chin with my hand.
- We snuggle on the couch together, usually with the child tucked into the crook of my arm.
- I pat their arm or give them a side hug while we talk.
- They tell me their jokes. Even if the joke doesn't make sense (which, they mostly *don't* with kids about 7-8 and under), I smile and affirm their efforts.
- I look them in the eyes and give them my full attention when they speak to me.
- I try to smile big whenever I see them. This happens tons and tons of times a day.
- We talk about what is going on in their lives-- big and small. (They show me Lego creations or drawings; I draw out deeper things from my roughly 7 and older crew when I sense that there are undercurrents of feeling left out, discouraged about something in particular, etc.)
- I get down on the floor and wrestle & play with them, intermingling snuggles, wrestling, hugs, kisses, and laughter. I play knee bouncy games with the 7 & under crew, where they bounce on my raised legs, or where I even lift them up, cheerleader style, so they're standing on my hands (when they get older it's just too much for my hands and knees).
- We share meals together where I sit down with them and we pray, talk, memorize Scripture together, laugh, comment about how cute their little brother is, etc.
- One or two of them might meander into my bedroom for a snuggle first thing in the morning before we get up, bleary-eyed.
- I shower them with kisses. This decreases in frequency as they get older.
- I hug them often. This does not decrease in frequency.
- We laugh together.
- I tickle them & they ask for more tickles. (I always stop if they ask me to "stop," and they all love to be tickled. I *think* this is because they know I will not exceed their boundaries in this area. They can always say "stop" and I will, immediately.)
- I zuburt them, and they ask for more zuburts. (After finding that link, I realize that I've been mispronouncing it-- and misspelling it-- all these years. Oh well.)
- I rub their backs or give neck/leg massages when they seem sore/tight/achy, or are having growing pains.
- I ask them questions like, "Do you know how special you are to me?" and "Do you know you're my favorite 9-year-old in the whole wide world?"
- I respond to their requests to color/build blocks/design a train track/do doll hair *sometimes*. I am not primarily their playmate, but I am willing to play, from time to time, because I love them and want to spend time with them when I am free to do it.
- They cook with me and I tell them they're doing a good job.
- We take walks together and hold hands.
- We dance silly together to fun music like LeCrae.
- I tell them "I love you" often.
- I hug and scratch their backs.
- We swim and play together outside.
- I sometimes reach and hold their hand if I am in the front passenger seat and they are in a car seat, or when we are on the couch.
- For little babies: I keep them close in slings, sometimes. I kiss their toes, their nose, etc. We play little games where I list out all their body parts, pointing to each one and saying that God made it.
- I listen to them. Even when it's stuff I'm not necessarily interested in (though this has it's limits. Sometimes mom has a migraine, or is cooking and focused on following a recipe, or needs quiet afternoon time, or whatever. I am not advocating for boundary-less living, but self-sacrificial love will sometimes mean listening to an extensive description of a WWII battle tank, or how our daughter just made up a nonsensical story with her My Little Ponies).
- I talk to them. We talk about politics, what bill I'm paying and how much it is this month, why I chose to spray paint my writing desk yellow, ideas for how to build a chicken coop, reasons why we opt out of certain things in order to spend more time together as a family, etc.
- We opt to take one or more children with us when we have an errand to run, even when we don't "have to."
- We use LOTS of pet names (little squish, sweet potato, doodle, punkin pie, baby man, noodle baby, stinker pie, squishy-ba-dishy, little man-man, snuggle-buggle, precious baby girl, etc.).
- As they get older (more toward 7-11+), I ask them their opinions about things... we talk about life and the implications of different decisions and I affirm whenever they display any amount of wisdom or insight.
- I read books to them aloud (yes, even to my oldest son who in youth group).
- We hug and kiss them goodnight, every night.
- We sing songs together, especially at bedtime. (Their favorite, most-requested is "Amazing Grace.")
- I pray for them, out loud at bedtime, whenever I put them to bed. (Admittedly, bedtime is normally a daddy-duty around here, but whenever I put them to bed, I pray aloud for them.) For all of the children, I pray that they will sleep well, sleep all night, and be refreshed and ready for a new day the next morning. If anyone has been struggling with fear or night-wakings, I thank God that He tells us "Do not be afraid, for I am with you." I verbalize, "When I am afraid, I will trust in You," and ask that He would remove any fear and teach them to trust in Him. I pray for my sons that they will grow up to be honest, honorable, hard-working men who protect the women and children God puts in their lives. I pray that they will prize Scripture and become more like Jesus every day. I pray that they will be kind to one another, patient with their sister, and become servant-hearted men like their daddy. For my daughter, I pray that she will grow to be a woman who loves Jesus and knows Scripture. I pray that she will be a kind-hearted woman who uses her words to encourage and build up others. I pray that she will be a blessing to her brothers.
One of the few things older Christian women are explicitly commanded to teach younger women is to "love their children."
This is something that is important to understand... as Christian parents, we are not pursuing the robotic subjection of our children. We are not dictators, and they are not cowering subjects. We are pursuing a loving, affectionate relationship with them, as we train them to obey, coach them through life, teach them what's right, and help them walk in the way they should go.
LOVING them with GREAT AFFECTION allows us to discipline them with great consistency and confidence, and enjoy life alongside them within the context of a joyful family.
What are ways you show love to your kids that you would add to my list?
FOR FURTHER READING:
- Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney (One of her seven topics is how to cultivate affectionate love for our children.)
- Loving Our Children PART ONE and PART TWO
- The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity by Sally Clarkson
- Labeling VS. Loving
- Beware of Psychobabble Parenting, and Psychobabble Parenting, Part 2
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