As a parent, loving your child and knowing your child may seem obvious, commonplace, and completed statements. But are they obvious to your child? Do they feel loved and known by you? Those may be sobering questions. And you would hope the questions would be answered with an obvious “yes”!
As life moves forward and children grow, parents may be caught off-guard if asked to make a list of their child’s favorite things or recall their latest one-on-one conversation about what matters most to them. Growth means life changes. Which may mean the same ways of communicating love and understanding your child also change.
A parent’s affirming words, consistent presence, routine actions, meaningful conversations, and faithful prayers make big impressions on your child’s acceptance of love. Pausing to take an inventory of time, words, and prayers shared with children will help clarify where adjustments may be needed, simply because children grow!
Words spoken by parents to their child are usually giving directions or instructions. Thoughtful and concise words, shared at the right time, with the right tone and body language can be very impactful. However, parents, can easily over-speak to the point of children tuning out the directions. When too many words are used there is a risk of communicating mistrust. Children may begin to feel they are inadequate to listen and apply the instructions the first time.
As children grow, schedules change. Guarding family mealtimes, weekly home time, and time with each child individually takes intentional planning. Children should never get the leftovers or be left-out. Consistent one-on-one, eye-to-eye attention communicates love and builds connections best when it is shared over what matters most to the child.
Faithful prayers of parents have stood the test of time. Praying for a child and with a child cannot be left undone. Routine prayers, spontaneous prayers, guided prayers, scripture prayers, and prayers of children need to be woven into the daily fabric of family life. Prayer softens the hearts of both parents and children, making it possible for love, hope, gratitude, and contentment to flourish within the home.
Contemplating the following questions may give some perspective to ensure love and understanding are being absorbed by children as they grow. (Returning to these questions once a semester keeps parents intentional in the way love is expressed and children are known.)
- How are Words used in the Home? What is the tone & volume? Are there unspoken expectations that need to be clarified? How do children respond to the words shared? (Resources: Words to Love By, Rick Warren)
- What is distracting quality family time? How can the car become a family ‘sanctuary’? When can 20-minute Parent-Child Dates be added to the schedule? What house-hold responsibilities need to become ‘Family Teamwork’? (Habits of the Household, Justin Whitmel Earley)
- How does each child feel/absorb love? Either through: touch, time, words, actions, or gifts? (5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman; Love Does for Kids, Bob Goff)
- When can the family pray together? How can a Gratitude List be included as a continuous family prayer? What prayer needs do the children have? What character qualities need to be prayed over for each child?
- As children grow, be aware of: What is their best time of day? When are they most relaxed/cooperative/focused? What are their favorite things to experience (without a device)? Who do they respect? What are their concerns or worries? What hurts their feelings? How is their heart feeling? What questions do they have about life?
Value, worth, and respect are irreplaceable benefits to any child, when they know they are loved and understood. Then gratitude, contentment, and peace begin to be more commonplace within the family. These God-given, positive qualities take root in their heart, strengthening their foundation for healthy living, making God’s love obvious for others.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
Spiritual Development Team, Grace Prep
Biblical Parenting Coach