Saying that we love our children and doing certain things that communicate love isn’t enough. We’ve got to love them in the way that God loves us–when they’re unappreciative, when they don’t deserve it, when it’s inconvenient, when it is costly to us, even when it’s painful.
There are three things that, done consistently, have a way of giving your children a sense of security that keeps them from doubting. It minimizes their need to search for the shallow love that the world system offers. It builds an authentic love in their hearts that speaks to them long after we are out of the picture.
1. Children feel secure when they know they are accepted as they are. Let me qualify this before we clarify it. There are attitudes our children might develop that we never have to accept. Selfishness, disrespect, deceit, and other wrong behavior does not have to be condoned or tolerated.
The “acceptance” I’m talking about is for those things that are part of our children’s personal makeup. These are the unique things that make them individuals–the emotional, intellectual, and physical DNA. These are also the things that have no moral problems affixed to them. Many of our kids do things that annoy, frustrate, or embarrass us, but they are not wrong.
Every time we point these things out, we tell them that they don’t measure up. This builds a foundation of insecurity in them.
Boys are often berated because they are noisy, messy, or aggressive. Girls are often criticized for being too emotional, picky, or overly sensitive. Some kids are criticized for being slow, forgetful, or inquisitive, or for saying whatever pops into their heads. Some boys don’t care for sports. Some girls don’t like to play house.
Kids have always had their own way of communicating, their unique style of clothes and hair, and distinctive music. They go through awkward times where they don’t think they’re attractive, smart, or interesting.
What is key in all of this is that a parent should communicate nothing but acceptance for the unique characteristics of their children.
When they do that, a child senses the kind of acceptance that God has for us in our uniqueness.
Kids inside homes where non-moral issues are elevated to a level of big problems don’t get to experience the kind of acceptance that makes a heart feel securely loved. Instead they live with a barrage of nitpicking criticism, receiving put-downs because they are curious, anxious, excited, helpless, carefree, or absent-minded.
When we receive our children as they are, we reflect the kind of love that God has for them. It’s the kind of love that will carry them through the good times and the bad times for the rest of their lives.
2. Children feel secure when they know they are affiliated with a loving and honoring family. Homes of honor see the other person’s time, their gifts, their uniqueness, and their dreams as gifts to be cherished and stewarded. Homes of honor still have room for sibling rivalry. Homes of honor occasionally entertain arguments and disappointments, but for the most part, these homes give children a deep sense of being loved in a secure environment.
All children are important, along with their opinions and concerns. Their time is respected, their ideas are respected, their space is respected, and their vulnerabilities are respected. There is a present-tense commitment to making each day an asset that builds on the day before.
The best way to see this become a reality among children is to make it the way parents deal with each other. Homes of honor understand forgiveness, they are committed to virtue, and they place high value on every individual in the circle.
Kids who live in a home where honor for each other rules the day grow up to be children with secure tucked safely into their hearts.
3. Children feel secure love when they receive regular and generous helpings of affection. Why is it that when someone you love scratches your back, it always feels better than when you scratch your back yourself? Allow me to let you in on a secret. God has hard-wired our skin to our souls. Somehow, He saw fit to configure our outer covering to be one of the greatest tools for transferring a sense of secure love.
Everyone was designed to respond to affection. With rare exceptions, children are especially responsive to meaningful, tender touch. The hugs and kisses they receive from their parents from the moment they are born create a reservoir of security in their hearts.
Both genders need it from both parents. Sons and daughters fare far better if they receive plenty of lap time from their moms and dads. They sleep better at night when their parents have stopped by their rooms to tell them how much they love them, to pray over them, and to kiss them good night.
And that type of parental love shouldn’t stop as they move into the teenage years. While they might be self-conscious about receiving affection from you in front of their friends, they still need meaningful touch. It might be a hand on their shoulder, a playful punch on the arm, or some wrestling in the pool. They still need touch, and deep down in their hearts, they want it. They want to know that someone isn’t ashamed or afraid to touch them.
It’s a crucial gift they need at a time in their lives when many feel unattractive and untouchable.
Healthy, meaningful touch toward our sons and daughters makes it easy for them to give and receive affection as adults. It also gives them a clear sense of the counterfeit that masquerades as affection. It helps them to transfer the legacy of love they have received from you to the next generation in your family tree.
If they’re forming a line for parents who have fallen short, and you feel that you should be in it, you’ll have to get in line behind me. We’ve all fallen short. We’ve stolen our children’s joy unnecessarily more times than we’d like to count. We’ve turned non-issues into crises. We’ve sculpted molehills into mountains. We’ve reached inside our children’s hearts and pinched them simply because we could.
You might need to ask your children’s forgiveness. You need to let them know that you recognize you’ve failed them, that you’ve hurt them, and that at times you’ve stolen their joy. Be specific. Even if you have to go back years, let them know that you know you were wrong. It doesn’t make you smaller in their eyes. In your humble contrition, you will demonstrate something they desperately need if they want to have a love that is secure–grace.
And don’t be surprised if you find yourself overwhelmed with the urge to offer acceptance, affiliation, and affection to your children on a daily basis. These are three gifts that keep on giving…long after you are gone.
Used with permission from Grace Based Parenting