Even if your child’s primary love language is not quality time, many children crave the undivided attention of parents. Indeed, much childhood misbehavior is an attempt to get more time with Mom or Dad. Even negative attention seems better than no attention to the child.
Quality time is a parent’s gift of presence to a child. It conveys this message: “You are important. I like being with you.” It makes the child feel that he is the most important person in the world to the parent. He feels truly loved because he has his parent all to himself.
The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together.
If you give loving looks only when your child is pleasing you, you are falling into the trap of conditional love. That can damage your child’s personal growth.
Sometimes family members refuse to look at one another as a means of punishment. This is destructive to both adults and children. Kids especially interpret withdrawal of eye contact as disapproval, and this further erodes their self-esteem.
Don’t let your demonstration of love to a child be controlled by whether the child is pleasing you at the moment.
With younger children, one of the most effective times to initiate conversation is at bedtime, when they are especially attentive.
Sadly, many young people today do not understand how to handle their feelings, especially anger. Many years of warm and close bedtime talks, which include gentle, relaxed sharing of feelings, can help prevent some of life’s deepest problems down the road.
Don’t be a victim of the urgent. In the long run, much of what seems so pressing right now won’t even matter. What you do with your children will matter forever.
At times parents who have every intention of offering a true gift may be sending confused messages if they ignore the child’s deep emotional need for love. In fact, a child who doesn’t feel truly loved can easily misinterpret a gift, thinking it is conditionally given. One mother, under great stress and at odds with her son, gave him a new baseball. Later, she found it in the toilet.
“I think the thing that made me feel most loved was the way my parents worked so hard to help me with everything. I remember how they’d get up early on Saturdays to take me to my games, or stay up late helping me with a homework project.”
As parents, we serve our children—but our primary motivation is not to please them.
We serve our children, but as they are ready, we teach them how to serve themselves and then others.
Loving service is not slavery, as some fear. Slavery is imposed from the outside and is done with reluctance. Loving service is an internally motivated desire to give one’s energy to others. Loving service is a gift, not a necessity, and is done freely, not under coercion. When parents serve their children with a spirit of resentment and bitterness, a child’s physical needs may be met, but his emotional development will be greatly hampered.
The ultimate purpose for acts of service to children is to help them emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others through acts of service. This includes not only being helpful to cherished loved ones, but also serving persons who are in no way able to return or repay the kindnesses. As children live with the example of parents who serve the family and those beyond the walls of their home, they too will learn to serve.
The Bible suggests that sacrificial service is one way we please God.
But our children are immature. They are naturally self-centered and cannot be expected to serve others with selfless motivation. They want to be rewarded for their good behavior. It takes a long time for them to be able to give love through selfless acts of service. How do we move toward this ultimate goal? First, we make sure that our children feel genuinely loved and cared for. We keep their emotional tanks full. Also, we are role models for them. By our example, they first experience loving acts of service.
Requests do not demand. It is difficult for children to feel good about expressing appreciation when they are commanded to do so. It is the difference between “Say thank you to your father,” or “Would you say thank you to your father?”
We must be careful in our acts of service to never show conditional love. When parents give of themselves to their children only when they are pleased by their behavior, such acts of service are conditional. Our watching children will learn that a person should help others only if there is something in it for him.
One of the finest ways to do this is by hosting others in your home. Family hospitality is a great treasure, for in this act of service people truly get to know each other and to form strong friendships. As you open your home to others, your children learn this meaningful way of sharing love with friends and family.
All children are selfish, so they are often unaware of the importance of communicating in ways that are not familiar or comfortable.