Scripture teaches us to not only love our neighbor, but to love our children. The relationships we build in our home are perhaps the most important ones we will ever build. A child with a secure connection to their parents has a much easier time trusting and obeying them, and by extension, learns to trust and obey their Heavenly Father. We love our children, without question, but do they always know that we love them? Here are ten practical things you can do today to show your children that you love them.
It’s amazing how simple this tiny little thing is, and yet, how incredibly powerful it is in improving the mood of the whole household. I know there are lots of cute phrases like, “Turn your frown upside-down,” and many others, but the truth of the matter is that smiling works. You don’t even have to be happy to choose to smile. You just need to smile, and often the happy feeling follows. How does this show love to your children? Everyone feels more at ease when mommy is feeling happy. I don’t think we realize how much tension we can put on everyone when we are in a bad mood. Our children tend to pick up on our emotions and it affects them greatly. “When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” We, as mothers and adults, need to take responsibility for our emotions and the affect we have on the people around us. Emotions are real, and not inherently good or bad, but we need to learn to control how we express them. As we control our emotions with simple things like choosing to smile, we set an example of emotional self control for our children. That shows them great love.
Put down your electronics
We all just want to be noticed and acknowledged, right? I know I do. Our children seek us out to tell us something that is exciting to them, and they are greeted with the back of whatever screen we are currently using. With today’s electronic addiction (don’t tell me you are immune to its’ power, I’m not) it is difficult to set aside what we are doing to pay attention to our children. But, if we are to show love to them, it is absolutely essential that we do so. Our children need to see our faces. They need to know that we are listening to them. They need to be reassured that we value them. The least we can do is set down our phone when they are speaking to us.
Listen to understand
Have you ever talked to someone, and realized that they weren’t really listening to you? They were thinking about their response, instead? Have you ever done this to someone else? It can’t really be called listening, because you aren’t doing anymore than allowing your auditory senses to receive the incoming data. It’s selfish, too. True communication stems from a desire to understand the other person’s perspective. We all want to be understood, and that includes our children. To show them love, we need to listen to them with the intent to understand them better. When your children come to you, look at them and actually listen to them. It may not seem very important, but if they came to you with it, it’s important to them. Yes, this includes their detailed description of a drawing, their incessant questions, and the constant mom, mom, mom. (Hint: if you are consistently listening to your children, the mom, mom, mom will be reduced.)
Read to them
Imparting knowledge to your children through books is a great way to show them you love them. I have had a love/hate relationship with reading aloud over the years. I know it’s important but I don’t think I will ever be the mom with a stack of books to read aloud before bed. I do, however, read the Torah portion and some from the New Testament every Shabbat to them. We also make trips to the library and I read a couple of them to the kids before bed. There’s something magical about curling up on the couch with your kids and sharing a book together. It provides closeness and an opportunity to share an experience. If nothing else, make sure you are trying to read Scripture to your children. What better way to show love than to build a solid Scriptural foundation for them?
Laughter is good like a medicine. Sometimes, I think we take ourselves too seriously. A great way to connect with and show love to our children is to laugh with them. Enjoy their knock-knock jokes. The other day, I taught my kids how to make fart noises with their hands. It was a riot, and it felt good to laugh with them and enjoy them. What silly things do you enjoy with your children?
Take an interest in their hobbies
Each of our children is unique. We know this, but we don’t always treat them uniquely. They have different personalities, different energy levels, different interests. Once my husband and I really got the hang of this idea, it made a huge difference in our relationships with our children. An easy way to get started appreciating your children is to learn about their hobbies. Each of our children has interests ranging from pet rats to drawing to dinosaurs. We do our best to listen carefully, celebrate their accomplishments, and provide materials they need to pursue their interests. After looking at the price of good quality artist markers, I joked with my husband that we might want to rethink this “celebrate our children’s uniqueness” thing. But, seriously, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know our children. They are amazing little people, and it’s exciting to think how God might use them and their interests and abilities. Most importantly, we all feel loved when someone takes the time to learn about the things that excite us. We can show tremendous love to our children by taking an interest in their interests.
Go outside with them
There are few things better for your family, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, than going outside together. When eveyone is feeling a bit stressed, or overwhelmed, or cranky, the best thing for everyone is to get a bit of fresh air and breathe deeply. There’s something about being out in nature that grounds and centers us again. You can show your children you love them by spending a bit of time outside with them. It’s a great way to show love to yourself, too.
Teach them Torah
The most important thing you can do for your children is teach them right and wrong, and the proper way to relate to other people and their Creator. How do we define right and wrong? It is laid out for us in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The rest of the Bible gives us details, examples, and explanations of how to keep Torah. Torah is, in essence, a guidebook on how to love God and love our neighbor. If your Torah observance looks like a set of rules, I invite you to take another look. Torah is full of principles to show us how to default to love in our dealings with people. Learn about love alongside your children by studying the Torah on a regular basis. Live it out in front of them, since example is one of the most powerful teaching tools. Showing your children how to walk the straight and narrow, loving journey through life is the best way to show them you love them. Not sure where to start? Try using my weekly Torah portion resource posts to teach your children the Torah.
There’s something so nostalgic and beautiful about coloring with your children. It’s a simple pleasure, and one that will build amazing memories with your kids. Whether you bring out a dollar store coloring book, some blank paper, or these Torah portion coloring pages from Torah sisters, you will be spending time connecting with your children. As you color, watch for opportunities to connect with them. Listen to them tell you about their pictures. Ask about their likes and dislikes. Great communication is foundational in any relationship, and coloring provides the perfect, relaxed environment. So, go do some coloring!
Pass out hugs
I have heard that we, as humans, need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 for maintenance, and 12 to thrive. Are you getting that many? Are your children? It is so easy to overlook the emotional needs of those around us. We make sure our children are fed and get their schoolwork done, but we forget their need for connection. I discovered that I was giving my little children lots of hugs, because they were still at such a cuddly age, but was overlooking my teenagers. I didn’t know if they would feel awkward getting hugs, but when I started hugging them, they really appreciated it. Everyone needs hugs. Good morning and good night hugs are a great way to start. Some families pass out hugs at mealtime. I have also learned that the first thing you should do when you are upset with your child is give them a hug. Hard feelings, apologies, and teaching right and wrong are all better handled within the context of a well connected relationship. Hugs are a great way to make this happen. How often do you hug your kids?
If this post resonated with you, I can guarantee you will enjoy my book ‘It’s Okay to Hide in the Bathroom: The Overwhelmed Mom’s Guide to Enjoying Motherhood.‘ It takes all these ideas and runs with them. Plus, you get to see the honest, and humorous, ins and outs of raising seven children at my house. You can get your copy here.