Written by: Nanny Secours
Life sometimes feels like a rollercoaster ride. From the morning mayhem to the evening routine with extracurricular activities, chores, homework, bath time and more, what time do we have left to simply enjoy parenthood and show our children our love? We tend to spontaneously hug and kiss our babies and toddlers, but as our children get older, our displays of affection can become scarcer, and we may forget to remind our children of how much we love them. Children may even tend to doubt the unconditional love and acceptance of their parents. Since all parents sometimes get angry, scold or punish for bad behavior, raise their voice or sigh in exasperation, show their disappointment, disapproval or point out shortcomings, certain children can develop the impression that they are a burden to their overwhelmed parents.
Put it to the test: every time you show your child your disapproval, each time you intervene or give a directive, mark it on a sheet. Then, every time you interact positively with your child, whether you’re joking around, smiling, giving each other a hug, snuggling while watching a movie, or simply spending quality time together, mark a star on the same sheet. What do you see? Do you reprimand your children more than you show them your approval? What is the ratio of affection to scolding? Unfortunately, we often tend to fixate on what annoys us and the behaviours we’d like to change. It’s important to balance out the situation regularly, to become conscious of everything we appreciate and take for granted, and to show our children in various ways what they mean to us and that they are godsend. Here are a few ideas to help you get there:
Instil a new tradition in your home! Every day, you and your family will each say something you appreciate about each other or make a positive comment. You can make it part of your dinner time conversation or even keep a log where everyone must enter a positive comment about another family member (e.g.: “I loved it when mommy helped me with my homework,” or “Sammy woke up with the brightest smile this morning!” You can also hang a “family love chart”, where all of you can pin short messages to express love or appreciation regularly.
And I’m not necessarily referring to the amount of time you spend with your children, but rather its quality and the fact that you’re there body and mind. Take five minutes every day to have what I call a “heart to heart” with each of your children. Put aside your chores and concerns, go sit next to your child and take an interest in whatever he or she is doing without interrupting. Take a deep breath to connect with your emotions and realize the love you have for your child, how beautiful he or she is and how blessed you are to be his or her parent. One way or another, your child will sense your love through this aura of tenderness.
Don’t just plan family activities, show your enthusiasm by playing with your children and showing them that you like hanging out with them. Laugh at their jokes, appreciate the drawings they give you, play the enthralled audience when they put on a show for you and include them in activities you like too.
Building your child’s confidence through trust is one of the most powerful displays of affection you can give. The more often you tell your children you trust and believe in them, the more you contribute to building their self-esteem and sense of acceptance. Try telling your child: “I’m lending it to you; I KNOW you will be careful,” or “I’m sure you’ll do great,” rather than opting for sceptical comments like “Be careful! You’ll break it!” or “You’d better behave tonight at....!”
Regardless of their age, you should always take an interest in your children’s opinions, likes/dislikes and ideas. Simple comments like these can make a difference: “What do you think I should wear tonight?”or “Whew! The character in your story had a funny reaction don’t you think? What would you have done?” Ask your children what their take is on different subjects or situations and try to get to know them and their interests. Taking a few minutes to listen to your teen’s favourite new album or reading the novel he or she is really into are also great ways to tell your child “I’m interested in what you’re doing and what you like.”
Avoid scolding your children in public. Speak of your children in a positive manner even when they are not in the same room. Always use respectful words, even when you’re angry. Never speak to your children in a tone you wouldn’t use with other people’s children. Don’t lie, make empty promises or resort to blackmail to get children to obey. If necessary, take a class on parent-child communication to learn how to display your authority while maintaining a respectful attitude.
In addition to words, there are many other ways to remind your children of how much they mean to you. Small everyday actions can include:
Setting ground rules, enforcing these and establishing limits and prohibitions despite the anger of children is also showing them love. Children instinctively know they are not supposed to do everything they want and they need strong and solid pillars on which they can rely. When adults succumb to the whims of their children, these may feel neglected and not important enough for their parents to make the effort to raise them. My favorite sentence is “I love my children so much that I accept they sometimes hate me.”
And you…do you show your children your love?
Family Coach and Founder of SOS Nancy
Member of Nanny Secours Network (French only)