There is a not so little secret to effective Christian parenting. It’s a lot easier if you have a close, loving relationship with your kids. Children are a lot more responsive to their parents’ spiritual teaching, mentoring, coaching and even correction and discipline if they feel close to the parent providing it. Every parent child relationship has its strained moments, but parents and children who are generally close feel a strong love and respect for each other.
Children usually love and respect people who love and respect them. Since God is love and Christianity is built on a foundation of love, it only makes sense that a strong parent child relationship is also a very loving relationship. Please don’t misunderstand. A loving relationship does not mean you cater to your child’s every whim or that you never correct or discipline your children. Rather, it means that even on the worst of days – when your kids don’t feel lovable – they still know you love them.
With kids, there is a twist to love. They need to feel that you like them as well. If they could verbalize the need, they would tell you they believe parents are somehow required to love them, but that when you choose to like them, it means you love them unconditionally. Once again, they don’t expect you to approve of their poor choices, but they do hope you will like and accept their basic personality, preferences and passions even if they are very different from your own. (The exception, of course, is if any of these is sinful.)
Thankfully, there are fun things you can do to show your kids you love and like them. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Spend one on one time doing something they love. This is especially important if they know their hobby is something you don’t normally enjoy or know nothing about. Let them teach you some of the basics. Take a class together. Hunt yard sales for items they need for their hobby. You don’t need to make it your hobby as well, but showing an appreciation and understanding for it helps your child feel loved.
- Shower them with hearts. Cut hearts out of construction paper. Make sure you have at least a dozen for each child. On each heart, write something you appreciate about that child. Be careful not to overstate. A child who makes so-so grades isn’t going to believe you think he or she is “the best student ever”. Your child will believe, however, that you love the way he or she tries so hard to do the best possible job on schoolwork. Have fun showering your kids with the hearts. Put them where they will see them all at once when they get up in the morning or come home from school. Or give them one a day for a couple of weeks or an entire month – perhaps snuck into their sack lunches or in their backpack or on their pillow each night.
- Pillow journal or notes. Make an entry or leave a note on their pillows about something positive you noticed about them that day. Try to focus on internal rather than external compliments. Which you choose to do will depend upon how consistent you can be. If you can remember to do it every night for every child, you may prefer a journal. If you can only manage to do it sporadically, then notes may work better. If you have more than one child, keep it as even as possible. Don’t give either the ”golden child” or the child struggling the most more notes than the others, as that can become a breeding ground for other issues. They don’t all have to get one on the same day, but even over a short period of time, the notes should be equally distributed.
- Have regular parent child dates. These dates can be both parents with one child or a parent with a child – making sure each child gets a date with both parents at some point. The date doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. The focus is just to have fun together and give your kids a chance to talk about anything and everything without a sibling vying for attention. Make sure you are listening actively and don’t use this as an opportunity to lecture your child about anything.
- Have device free fun time. Put away the devices for several hours. Play board games. Go for a hike. Choose an activity least likely to dissolve into sibling arguments – even if it’s just going for an ice cream cone. Having fun together as a family enhances feelings of love and acceptance.
- Serve someone as a family and share your faith with them in some way – even if you are serving Christians and it is more sharing encouragement. Serving others and sharing your faith can give your kids perspective on life. Maybe their day wasn’t quite so bad after all. They have an important purpose and mission in life. God has good works He has planned in advance for them to do. plus, doing it together as a family enhances feelings of belonging, purpose, acceptance and love.
- Use a special heart plate. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Each child should have turns using the heart plate at family meals. What privileges come with the heart plate or up to you and your creativity. Maybe the child with the heart plate has everyone say something they love about him or her. Perhaps they get to choose the menu when it’s their turn or their favorite food is part of the meal. Once again, how often you do this is flexible, but make sure each child gets equal turns.
- Cuddle up and read a book together. Even teens can enjoy being read to under the right circumstances. Picture books are best for young children, but reading a chapter regularly out of a longer book can be fun for older kids and teens. Choose a book you enjoyed at their age or that you know they will like. Plodding through a boring book won’t work. Or cuddle up and read a story from the Bible together – sharing God’s love with them as you show them your love.
Have fun with it. Be creative. Make sure your kids know you love them. You might just find parenting gets a little easier.