Making actions speak louder than words, and showing love to your child.
Here I’m going to give you 6 ways you can actively show love to your child. There are endless ways to do this, and the list could go on and on, but here are 6 ways (+ a bonus!) to show love to your child that can improve your relationship right now.
Love is action, it’s a verb, it’s a demonstration that sometimes it can be about your words, but most of the time it’s about what you do. Your actions are what show love to your child.
I have a 2.5yo and a 6mo, so my frame of reference as a mother is this stage, but these principles are for all ages and stages, with specific applications.
Let’s get to it.
1. Know your child’s personality
This is probably the most basic element of relationships, but it’s surprising how many people neglect it. Let me start by saying that who your child is may not be who you would have liked them to be our who you imagined. You must show love to the child you have, and not the child from your imagination. There are countless books, websites, tests that can help you determine personality from a very early age, as soon as 2 weeks. These early resources are extremely helpful to show you about your child, and guide you in ways to show love to your child.
Personality is not a positive or negative, it’s not a good or bad, it’s how we’re built, and by knowing your child, how they respond, react, what makes them thrive, what makes them anxious, you will be better equipped to deal with everyday situations.
I have seen (and used) numerous definitions and tests, but the one we liked the best is by Tracy Hogg, in the book Secrets of the baby whisperer. That being said, the point here is not to read a book or fill your kid with tests, the point is to get to know you child, as an individual, and going from there.
When we know someone it is easier to understand, help, enjoy and do life with that someone. As parents it is our role to help our children navigate the world, and the more we know about how they react to the world, the better we can equip them to deal with the world. Do they need hugs, conversation, alone time, more structure, less structure, try on their own, be guided… there are so many variables, and to show love to your child means understanding a little of how they work individually, and acting accordingly.
Tracy defines 5 types of personality (Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, and Grumpy), all with positive and negative traits. When taking the test baby A consistently rated as a Textbook baby. So parents set a routine, and studied a bit about his personality, and how they could best help him grow and thrive. This means that when something (good or bad) happens, they anticipate his reactions, and are able to respond accordingly.
On the other hand, mom of baby B read the book, and without actually taking the test, determined that she had a Textbook baby, but when you spend 10 minutes with him you realize he is anything but, he is actually a touchy baby, but mom is so adamant that her baby be textbook that she can’t accept his reactions, and applies all textbook techniques to a baby that needs a whole other set of things.
2. Respect their feelings and hurts
It is so easy to dismiss other people’s issues and feelings when we compare them to our own. Has someone ever said to you something like that’s nothing, that’s not a real problem, that’s just a phase, that doesn’t really hurt… If so, you know that your feelings and hurts being dismissed only makes things worse. This is no different for kids. To show love to your child you must understand that what they feel has value.
Falling and scraping a knee hurts. Bumping your head can hurt. Doctors can be scary. Imaginary monsters are frightening. Wanting this cup instead of that one can be a big deal.Fear is not rational and sometimes you’re scared of things others aren’t scared of (my boy was scared of gas stations for a while…. and by scared I mean terrified crying desperately every time we had to stop at one). Pain (emotional and physical) is a real thing and whatever issue we are going through is an issue at that moment, no matter what other people are going through.
Have empathy for your kid’s feelings and hurts. If they fall and get hurt, don’t say it’s nothing. Hug, kiss, acknowledge that it hurts, that they can cry and that you’ll do something to help (most of the time a kiss does the trick around here). If they are emotionally hurt, don’t dismiss their anguish or fear… acknowledge and talk/hug through it to reach the other side.
Knowing someone understands our pain goes a long way to making us feel better, and as people who love our little ones it’s part of our role to respect that as silly as it may seem to us, that is their whole world, and by helping them cope with that pain, fear or anguish we are giving them tools to cope with the fears, anguishes and hurts that life throws us as seasons go by.
3. Be there… mentally and physically
Time. We all struggle with time in one way or another. How to fit all we have to do in the hours available to us. I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know. What I do know is that quality time matters. Not the amount of time, it’s not about spending the entire day, every day, with your kids, it’s about actually being there when you’re with them. Talking to someone else, watching TV, using your phone, reading the paper or a book while close to your child is not being with them.
Get involved in their activities… play legos or dolls. Ride a bike. Read a book. Play wrestle. Play dress up. Do things together. Put away the distractions and be there. For how long? That’s not a set answer, just do it as much as you can.
4. Be affectionate
Affection is always important. There is not a soul in the world that doesn’t need a hug, a touch every once in a while. How much depends on knowing your child, their love languages, and how important physical affection is to them, but be available. Be available for a hug, a kiss, a snuggle… sometimes that matters more than all the words of love in the world.
That being said… tell them. Praise your kids, tell them you love them, tell them why.
Both physical and verbal expressions of love are the small things that matter in a big way.
5. Set limits and boundaries
As parents it is important to teach our kids about appropriate, acceptable behaviour. Manners matter – kids and adults alike are not drawn to kids who don’t have manners. Set boundaries and stick to them. Say yes often, but have firm nos, because life is not about doing anything you want, whenever you want, regardless of others. Say no when you have to, set clear limits and stick to them. Don’t be bipolar regarding your rules… I believe there should be few non negotiables, but they are just that, non negotiable. Sometimes loving means drying the tears that come from those limits. However… kids that learn boundaries from a very early age have much less dificulty dealing with hearing no. Start early, you won’t regret it.
Really listen. Look your kid in the eye and hear what they have to say. Have a conversation, talk to your child, not at them. Everyone needs to be heard, and it is so easy to dismiss thoughts, fears, anxieties, joys, dreams saying they are childish, or just a teenage thing.
When my toddler gets frustrated because another kid doesn’t want to share a toy, that is is whole world. Yes, looking from my mom seat I know this is a phase, I know this is not life threatening. But this is really important to him right now. It’s not my job to dismiss him and speak to him as if he were an adult acting like a 2yo. He is 2… and so I have to get down on my knees, look him in the eye, talk about it and hug it out.
When my friend’s 15yo girl gets in a fit because her bff is moving away for a year, that is her whole world. It’s not about explaining that someday she will see that a year is not that long, and they might not even still be friends! It’s about sitting down, looking her in the eye, understanding her pain and hugging it out.
Listen. Have conversations.
PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE
Here is a bonus that should be implied in some of the above, but I feel really, really, strongly about this. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE. In fact, leave it in the other room. Mute it and just leave it.
Level with me… you’ve been there before, we all know someone who is always doing something on their damn phone. And that person is only half there. You can’t look someone in the eye if you’re looking at your phone, you can’t have a conversation if you’re reading something on your phone, you can’t answer a question if you’re talking on your phone, you can’t clap and sing happy birthday if you’re taking a picture with your phone. Just put.down.your.phone.
This actually applies to any relationship with a person of any age, but kids are particularly sensitive to this. As adults we rationalise or simply dismiss it as rudeness, but kids don’t. They just see you giving more attention and importance to your phone than to them and/or whoever else is there. Then kids become teenagers and parents get angry that they don’t put down their phones and talk to them.
What message are you sending? What’s more important to you?
Image: kaehler photo
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)