I think most parents (especially of teenagers!) desperately want their children to know how much they love them. Of course, our love must be more than simply feeling affection; it must be action. Love is a verb. The love we feel must be put on display.
Love is patient. Wait! Nobody said this was easy, right? What does your level of patience with your children say about the way you love them? If you’re often irritated when your child keeps asking you questions, quickly frustrated when they don’t seem to understand something, or find yourself snapping in anger over little things, that’s not love.
Love is kind. In the midst of a cold-hearted culture, the home must be a warm, safe place of refuge. Children need to hear that they are valued and precious, not worthless and bothersome. They need generous encouragement, thoughtful counsel, gentle support. Unthinkably, some (too many) children live with constant put-downs, name-calling, shaming, and all sorts of verbal and physical abuse.
That patience and kindness, however, doesn’t mean that we tolerate bad behavior or give them everything they want. As children grow they’re gaining and seeking greater independence, they’re formulating their own ideas and opinions, they’re pushing boundaries.
Love sometimes means saying, “No.” But instead of just saying, “Because I said so,” why not give them sound reasons for your decision that communicates your love and helps them learn to make wise choices themselves?
No, you can’t stay up playing video games all night. Because I love you, I want you get the rest your growing body needs, so that you’ll be healthy and strong physically, mentally, emotionally. Let’s read a good book together instead, or play Uno, or take a walk before we go to bed at a decent hour and get a good night’s sleep.
No, you can’t go to that party. Listen, Johnny’s parents might not care that he and his friends drink beer and watch R-rated movies, but I care about you, and I don’t want you to be in that situation. Why don’t you invite a friend over and I’ll order a pizza?
No, you can’t wear that way-too-revealing outfit. You’re a beautiful young woman inside and out, and I want you to dress modestly being confident in who you are – a woman of strength and dignity, honor and purity, wisdom and self-control.
We also display our love through discipline. When your child chooses to disobey your authority as a parent, there should be appropriate consequences for his actions. They won’t like it, obviously, but when carried out in love for their good, discipline will yield the fruit of righteousness, and they will respect you for it.
Listen, none of us are perfect parents, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. I can’t even do the patience and kindness part apart from walking in step with the Lord. But I do know that our Father in heaven loves His children perfectly, and I long to keep learning from him to parent my own children well (even though my oldest is now 21 and getting married in December!).
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). May God grant His grace to help us truly love the children He’s blessed us to raise.