5 Ways to Prove You Love Your Kids
by Carey Nieuwhof
There’s an insecurity inside most of us that asks, “But, does he/she really love me?”
It happens when you’re dating.
Sometimes it still haunts you when you’re married.
It follows you into your deep friendships.
And it definitely makes its way into the heart of almost every child.
I have NO idea where this idea came from, but I remember being ten years old and thinking my parents paid my friends to be my friends. (I know, I know . . . that’s a few more thousand dollars in counseling to figure how I came to believe that . . . but I digress.)
No, you’ve never had that thought? I’m a lot more secure than I used to be, but let’s be honest, we’ve all wondered whether someone really loved us when in fact, they did. When in fact, they do.
How does that translate to parenting?
Other than saying, “I love you,” what communicates to your kids you love them deeply?
Often our words and actions are disconnected.
So here are five ways you can show your kids you love them without saying, “I love you” over and over again:
1. Give them your undivided attention
It’s tempting to think this is a technology issue—and it is to some extent. Your dinner recipe is on your phone or iPad, and while cooking, your Facebook, Instagram, texts, and email notifications keep pulling your attention away. Meanwhile, you were oblivious that someone was calling out, “hey, dad . . . dad . . . dad.”
It’s difficult when the world is in your pocket and follows you around everywhere. But this problem goes back long before we had iPhones and free Wi-Fi.
Maybe you had a hard time pulling your dad away from the football game when you wanted to show him what you built outside. Or your mom was always on the phone with her friends when you really just wanted to tell her what happened at school.
A person’s undivided attention is one of the rarest of gifts in our culture. Give it to your kids as often as you can.
2. Listen instead of lecture
I’m tempted to think my greatest value as a parent is to keep my kids from making the same stupid mistakes I made, or that I see other people making.
There’s some value in that for sure.
But while a lecture feels good to give, it feels less awesome to receive it. Especially when it’s every day. All the time.
Sometimes, I think my kids would much rather have just had me listen to them, rather than lecture them.
They already knew what happened wasn’t great. They just wanted someone who understood. Someone who listened. Someone who cared.
Not someone who knew better.
Maybe a better parenting recipe is five parts listening to one part lecturing. Your kids might even do a great job figuring out the lesson all by themselves, if you just listen.
3. Set some limits
At least two things are true about parenting.
Every kid craves limits.
And every kid pushes back against them.
If you decide your ten-year-old gets one sleep-over per school term, they’ll want two. If you let up and decide they’ll get three each month, then they’ll push for four.
It’s hard not to throw up your hands and say, “Fine, whatever you want.” Or worse, “Okay okay, you get as many as your friends have.”
But it’s so critical you don’t.
Setting and enforcing reasonable limits for your kids is one of the best ways to communicate both love and safety.
Your discipline as a parent will help your kids develop self-discipline.
4. Talk to them, not about them
We all have to talk about our kids to someone. But too often, I’ve heard parents complain loudly about their kids . . . while their kids (or siblings) are in the room.
Ditto for social media. I’ve seen exasperated parents get on Facebook to vent about how awful their kids are behaving.
Perhaps they’ve forgotten at some point, their kids will learn to read and maybe even navigate the interwebs, only to discover what Angry Mom really feels about them.
Few wounds pierce as deeply as unkind words spoken by a parent.
If you have a problem with your kids, talk to your kids about it, in love. Or discretely talk to an adult who can actually help you solve the problem.
You’ll be so glad you did.
5. Pursue your spouse
Almost by default, your kids become the center of your life.
But as we’ve said before on Parent Cue, that’s a trap. Child-centered parenting produces self-centered children.
If you’re married, one of the best gifts you can give your kids is a healthy marriage.
I’ve heard it said that it’s more important for your kids to know you love each other than it is for them to know you love them. There may be some truth in that.
A loving home creates a stable base.
No kid wants to see their dad cheat on their mom, or their mom to roll her eyeballs every time her husband walks into the room. What might be funny or entertaining on a sitcom can be devastating in real life.
Date your spouse. Work through your issues. Pray for each other.
Take vacations without the kids.
Don’t abandon the romance. Pursue each other passionately.
Your kids will be far more secure as a result.
These are only five ways you can show your kids you love them. What are some other ways you’ve seen work? Leave a comment!
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.
Just Wear The Stupid Gym Shorts
by Holly Crawshaw
Am I the only Mama who feels like 5:00pm – 7:00pm are the worst hours of the day? I mean, what good occurs between 5:00pm – 7:00pm?
Nobody likes what we had for dinner.
You can smell my cat’s litter box from the driveway.
The dishes are teetering over the edge of the sink.
I can’t understand my 1st grader’s homework.
My girls are tired.
Let’s be honest – even the cat’s in a bad mood.
And yet… it’s still… not… bedtime.
I call these hours the Evening Vortex. It’s never-ending. If you call or text me during this time, and I respond, it’s because I’m begging you for help.
I don’t know what possessed me to sign up my 1st grader for a dance class that starts at 6:00pm – RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE VORTEX – but I did. Last week, on the day of her dance class, she also had P.E. at school, which she has to dress out for. She got off the bus in her cute little gym shorts and t-shirt and I thought, Perfect. She doesn’t even have to change before dance class.
I needed to run some errands (AKA, enter another, far more enjoyable vortex called Target), so we went straight from the bus stop to town. When we got back in the car to drive to dance, Lilah said, “Well, who is going to bring me my leotard?”
I remember I was sweating, trying to get my 2-year-old buckled in her carseat (a practice that is a lot like wrestling with an enraged baby bull). I absently said, “Lilah, you’ll just wear your gym shorts, babe. We don’t have time to go back home.”
AAAAAAAAND CUE A LEVEL 12 MELTDOWN.
We argued the whole way to dance class. “But Mama,” she said, “all the other girls wear leotards!”
And I said, “Lilah, I’m not going to make you go to dance class. I’m tired, we all need to eat dinner, the house is a wreck… just decide what you want to do.”
And as her big blue eyes filled up with tears, she said, “Okay… what would YOU do, Mama? If you were me?”
AAAAAAAAND CUE MY OWN LEVEL 12 MELTDOWN.
In that moment, I was filled with so much conviction.
What would you do, Mama? If you were me?
In other words, Put yourself in my shoes.
Why had I not done this before? Why do I not do this more ALL THE TIME as a parent? It’s one of the first things we teach our children –The Golden Rule – Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Would I want to walk into a room and feel completely underdressed? NO! I wouldn’t wear jeans to a wedding. And, no, I wouldn’t want to wear yucky gym shorts while everyone else was wearing beautiful leotards.
Here I was, trying to get my 7-year-old to do something that I wouldn’t even want to do. And I wondered how often I had done that… How often I had expected adult-like behavior from my kid.
You better believe this Mama yanked that baby up and squeezed her to me for about thirty seconds. Then I dashed home, getting her into her most favorite leotard, and took her back to dance class.
We were only ten minutes late. (In full disclosure, there may have been several traffic/speed violations involved.)
I want to be better at putting myself in my daughters’ tiny shoes. I want to treat them the way I’d like to be treated.
About the Author:
Holly Crawshaw is a wife, mother, and writer who eats sour candy and laughs at her own jokes. She served on staff with North Point Ministries for six years, the latter of which was spent as Preschool Director. She and her husband, Ben, are raising their two daughters, Lilah and Esmae, in their hometown of Cumming, GA.
Four Words To Help Grow Your Family This Year
by Greg Payne
It’s January. It’s a time when we change the calendar and see that another 12 months have passed and think we should do the things we said we’d do the last time we changed the calendar. I know, because last January that’s what I did.
Where I work there’s this gym. Every time I park my car I see people going into the gym where I assumed they work out and get in better shape. I went into my office and sat down. Sometimes I could see them out the window. I thought if I joined THOSE people I’d have to make a huge lifestyle change. Last year a friend invited me to make a little change. Keyword there – LITTLE. He told me that if I would just go into that gym and move for 20 minutes, three times a week, it would change my life. I thought it would take hours a day, but my friend was a marine so I listened.
The first few months, I made every excuse to not invest those minutes. But I went. It was a little change in my life. I had 20 minutes three times a week. After half the calendar pages were turned it got easier. It became a habit. I started to … ahem … enjoy it.
Now I’ve changed my calendar, and I’m in a better place than I was last year at this time. Because of a little change to my schedule I’m feeling better physically. I’m able to do more things without the aches and pains of what I used to blame on growing older. Some big changes happened in my life because of a consistent LITTLE change.
In this episode of the Parent Cue Live podcast, we want to help parents think about being a spiritual leader in their home. It sounds like a huge change. It sounds overwhelming. It sounds like it will take a lot of time. I don’t know any parent who feels like they’re really an expert at it. We all feel like we’d have to rearrange our entire life to make any difference in our kid’s lives. The truth is, little changes over time make a huge difference. It may take a little change.
You can use four little words – Hear, Pray, Talk, Live – to help you make a little change that has huge results in your family.
Little changes this year– a prayer, reading a story, specific time set aside to talk, and committing to a regular time to worship… Any of these will make a huge difference for you and your family before you change your calendar again.
About the Author:
Greg Payne is a creative writer, video producer, and performer for Orange and 252 Basics. He has been married for 21 years. He has two daughters, a grill, a motorcycle, and a strange sense of humor. His dog loves anything from the grill. His daughters like his motorcycle. His wife tolerates his sense of humor with grace and mercy.
What Should You Be Striving For As a Parent
by Jeff Brodie
There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect kids. So what is the ideal family? What should be our goal?
When I look at my family, there is a tension between what is real around me and what is ideal. While I should be a patient parent, I can find myself making mistakes and pulling my hair out every day. God sets out some great ideals for us as parents. The big question is:
Will I abandon ideals, or lower my standards, just to make me feel better about my parenting?
Will I accept that even if I won’t be the ideal parent, I need to parent toward ideals?
What does it mean to abandon ideals as a parent? What ways do I let myself off the hook or lower the standard for my family or myself as a parent?
Here are 3 ways I find myself lowering my standards as a parent:
1. Quietly judging the parents around me.
Sometimes pointing out the mistakes in others is motivated by a need to make us feel better about ourselves. This is true in all aspects of our lives, including parenting. We can find ourselves judging, gossiping, or critiquing the parents around us (or their kids) as an escape from focusing on our own need to improve how we lead our own children to grow in their relationship with Jesus and with others.
2. Blaming my own parent.
As we know, not every parent had a good experience when they were being parented. The words “mom” or “dad” are never neutral. Sometimes we can find ourselves blaming the past for our parenting mistakes today. “I have a temper because my dad did.” “It probably isn’t right, but that’s what my mom did.” We sometimes need to be reminded that the bad habits we inherit are meant to be broken not to be blamed. Our past shouldn’t be an excuse to not parent towards an ideal, but a springboard towards something better.
3. Excusing ordinary situations by calling them extraordinary.
So often my parenting excuses start with claiming that my current situation is an exception to the ideal.
“The reason I don’t spend time with my kids is because I’m so much busier than everyone else.”
“The reason I don’t pray with my kids is because it just won’t work with my child.”
“The reason I yell at my kids is because I’m under so much more stress than most people.”
“The reason I have these challenges is because my son is a December baby.”
By claiming our situation is extraordinary gives us an excuse to lower our standards.
So – how do we handle the tension between what’s real and what’s ideal?
The answer: We take our cues from a God who models this for us. One of the mysteries of God is his ability to hold up ideals for me to aim towards, but to hold out his arms with grace because He knows I won’t always meet them – all with the goal of seeing me grow in my faith as a person and a parent.
God knows you aren’t a perfect parent, but He continues to hold up the ideal of a Jesus-led parent in one hand and His perfect grace for your mistakes in the other. Strive for what’s best, while understanding that God is ready to forgive and walk alongside you every step of the way.
About The Author
Jeff is the Executive Director at Connexus Community Church, a multi-campus church north of Toronto, and a strategic partner of North Point Ministries. He has been working with families and students for over a decade and is passionate about family and church coming together to reach this generation. He invests his time in developing teams of leaders, discovering innovative and practical ways to partner with parents, and finding ways to inspire communities with timeless truths. Jeff and his wife Leslie have two young boys who love NFL football, soccer, mini-stick hockey, and bedtime stories. Read more from Jeff on his website or on Twitter.