We rarely think about teaching kids how to love. When they are little, most children give lots of hugs and tell people they love them. The world, however, begins to slowly chip away at that pure, innocent love.
Depending on their circumstances and environment, at fairly young ages some children have already lost a lot of that original love for others. Because we live in a fallen world, even children raised in loving, Christian homes can have their love for others weakened.
When teaching your kids about the Fruit of the Spirit that is love, it’s important to help them understand the way God calls us to love others is very different from what the world usually calls love.
In the world, love is romantic or a word used casually to describe our favorite things. Love is often considered something that must be earned or is conditional.
The love God calls His people to live is a purer, higher, agape love that is unconditional. It is a love that can love our enemies and cause us to actually treat them well. It’s the love that’s described in 1 Corinthians 13.It’s a love that is all too rare in our world.
So what are some fun ways to help your kids begin to understand and consistently practice agape love? Here are a few of our favorite ideas.
- Love the invisible. There are a lot of people in our world who are unseen by others. It may be because they are somehow different from others in their community or because they have jobs that are less valued. It may be because they are poor or struggling with a problem like substance abuse. It may be because they have special needs or are socially awkward. Talk with your children about seeing and loving the unseen people in their worlds. Maybe it’s the kid no one will sit with or is teased. How can you show love to them? Start with people in your community and show them love as a family. Then encourage your kids to act in similar ways at school. Kids can be cruel, so talk about what your kids should do if they are teased or harassed for showing love to the unseen people in their school.
- Love our family. It seems no one can upset us as easily as our family. They live with us and know our weaknesses. Sometimes we take our frustration at the world out on family members – intentionally or unintentionally. Talk about the ways you aren’t currently being very loving to one another. What bad habits do you need to break? Challenge each other to try and do as many loving things for everyone in the family as they can over the course of a week. You can set any boundaries you want. At the end of the week, come back and talk about the things others did for you. How did they make you feel? How did it change the moods of family members or the atmosphere around your house? How long can you continue to act this way towards one another?
- Love our neighbors. Kids love surprises. Why not spend time thinking of nice surprises you can do for your neighbors? Make them secret if you can. How much love can you spread in your neighborhood before you are caught? Is there some little kindness your family can regularly do for your neighbors to show them love all year?
- Love your enemies. Whether it’s the “mean” teacher at school, the tough coach or the kid who is always mean to them, your kids may not call them enemies, but they have people in their lives that make it difficult to be loving. Who are these people? How does God want us to treat them? Why does He want us to be loving to people who seem so mean? How can your family show love to them? Can you shower them with so much love, you break down their defenses and see a more loving version of them? This may be the most challenging, but if your kids can master this, they are well on their way to being truly loving.
Be creative. Who else can your family love? What are some ways you can be more loving to everyone you meet every day? Make being loving to others a constant family goal.