How to Make “Love” Your Parenting Priority

It is perhaps a mother’s most powerful influence – the ability to love.

BYU Instructor and Family Researcher Heather Johnson shares ten ways to show your children love.

Share yourself with your children.
Can you juggle, make funny faces, do a cartwheel? Show your kids. Let them get to know you. They will LOVE you for it. Let them see you are fun, and normal, and exciting. Tell them stories about growing up. Share yourself with them. It will help you remember who you are too. And provide you opportunities to teach your children along the way. Show your children you love them by being yourself and sharing yourself with them. That is who they want as their mom. You! Plus, we need to trust that we are their moms for a purpose. We have the personality that is right for them. Let me see it.

Don’t hold grudges.
It is easy to let the temper tantrums and back talk start to build up. Without even knowing it, we hold the behavior against our children and enter the next situation, already irritated with them. Don’t. Let it go and start fresh each and every minute. And, don’t ever withhold affection as a punishment. Ever.

Commit to family rituals.
Rituals provide children with predictability, connection, a sense of identity, and give you an opportunity to teach them values. Not to mention, rituals build memories and life long bonds. Work to put meaning into the everyday activities. Do something together every Saturday morning, even if it is yard work. Eat family dinner, go for walks on Sunday afternoons, read stories together every night before bed. Incorporate rituals into your daily lives. These don’t have to be over the top. For example, my mom made school lunches special. She would always write little notes on our napkins. The lunches consisted of PB&J, and were contained in simple brown sacks. But that note, that note made the everyday special. It didn’t matter what I was eating. We interact all day. Commit to make those times meaningful.

See your children as people, not objects.
Instead of seeing your children as objects or road blocks that get in the way of what you want and need to do, like the dishes, or making a phone call, see them as people. While in the middle of dishes, it is easy to feel like your 5-year-olds request to play Candy Land is a burden. But stop for a minute and look at things from your child’s perspective. She has hopes and dreams and fears just like you do. Our kids don’t understand what it is like to be a mom and/or wife, as well as all the other hats we wear. If you take a minute and look at things from their perspective, your heart will be softened and we will start to really SEE the little/or big person who is standing in front of us.

Tell them “I love you” and give them hugs and kisses every day.
No exceptions. And not just at bed time, or when they do something good. Even if it has been one of “those” days. Hug them anyway, love them anyway and tell them you love them. They will thrive on the affection and reassurance. It feels good when people tell us we are loved. It is the same for children. They need to hear it often. Not that numbers are what we should focus on, but I have even heard that kids need a minimum of 9 hugs (physical expressions of affection) a day. Plus, you would be amazed at what happens when you hug a child when they are throwing a fit or talking back instead of reprimanding or getting mad at them. Try it, it does amazing things.

Encourage them often.
We can be quick to offer praise when our children do something good. Instead of praise, offer encouragement, whether they do well or not. Give them specific feedback about the effort and skill they demonstrate. Be sure you encourage even when they don’t succeed. Talk about the effort, more than the outcome.

Don’t multi-task.
Put everything away. Stop doing the laundry, don’t text on the phone when they are trying to tell you a story, and get down to their level. Really, really listen. You will hear so much more than their words.

Say YES.
Do they want ice cream for breakfast? Once in a while that’s okay. Do they want to play a little longer. That’s okay too. It’s okay to bend the rules every now and again and say YES. Children can easily feel like all we do is say No. Change things up and try to say yes to as much as you can. If you have to say no, rephrase the answer, suggesting what they can do, or can have, instead of what they can’t.

Be at the crossroads.
If possible, be at the crossroads of their day. When they leave for school, when they come home from school, as they come and go between activities. This can’t always be the case for every household. But whenever possible be available during these times. Be available to chat, and encourage your children as you send them out the door. Be a loving and friendly face to receive them when they walk back in the door. Be their cheerleader as they tackle the world. Pompoms optional.

Spend time with them.
Love is spelled T-I-M-E. Spending quality one-on-one time with our children make them feel much more loved than gifts and treats. Give your children a real gift, by committing to spend 15 minutes a day with each of them. Your time together should be technology free and uninterrupted. Let your child choose what they want to do. Whatever they choose, get involved and be in the moment. Look into their eyes, take note of the way their hair falls on their forehead. Marvel at their laugh and drink in their spirit.

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