One of the things I loved most about my mom was her affection. Whenever I was hurt or sad her hugs would bring the comfort and security I needed. However, what I loved most was her affection for no particular reason. I would be sitting in a chair reading and when she walked by she would lean over and kiss my head multiple times. It always made me feel loved and I have continued her example with my kids.
Parenting is all about relating. The better our relationship with our children, the better our chances at effective parenting. Youth expert Josh McDowell believes there are six factors that play into good parenting. He calls them the 6 “A”s.
When we affirm a child’s feelings it gives them a sense of authenticity. Have you ever heard the old saying, “Laugh with those who are happy and cry with those who are sad?” It means that when our child is sharing his feelings or opinions, they want us to listen and affirm them. It would go something like this. Your son comes home and says, “Man! My math teacher made me so mad today, he said I wasn’t trying.” Well, your instinct might be to try to downplay the situation like this, “Oh son, he probably didn’t mean anything by it. Let it go.” Or you might say before you even address his feelings “Now son, were you trying? Maybe he had a point.” Or, “You’re a big boy now; you can’t get so upset about things.”
Those are all attempts to control or fix the situation. Instead try, “Son, I am so sorry that happened. How do you feel about it now?” Even when we don’t agree with our children, we can still affirm them as individuals.
When you give unconditional acceptance you give a child a sense of security. This basically comes down to one principle that must be conveyed to our children: I don’t love you because of what you do or achieve, I love you because you’re my child. Our love and affection should not be based on grades, behavior, or achievements.
When we express appreciation it gives a child a sense of significance. Appreciation is one of the most powerful motivations for right behavior. So, the more we “catch” our children doing things right, and we express our appreciation, the more motivated they will be to behave better.
When we are available to our children it gives them a sense of importance. We can say all we want about how important our children are to us. But if we’re not giving them our time, our words will ring hollow. Our children should come before our TV-watching, our hobbies, and our desire to make money. Children spell love T-I-M-E.
When we show our children affection it gives them a sense of lovability. All children want to feel like they are lovable. Josh McDowell says not only that, but every child is going to prove they are lovable. If they don’t get love from you they will get it somewhere else.
When we hold children accountable it gives them a sense of responsibility and self-control. Children need the disciplines of responsibility and self-control to function successfully in life. As parents, we must create a context for rules and boundaries. Once those guidelines are set, we must be consistent in enforcing them.
How will you practice one of these six today?