How to Love Your Children
Instilling a sense of significance in a child is very important. It is something we find needful. My attitude about myself will be conveyed to my children. If I feel a sense of self-worth, my children will feel the same. If I feel, “I am worthless. I am no good,” that will be discouraging to the children. Letting them help around the house will give them a sense of worth. For example, when we are all doing something, like baking or cleaning, and the four-year-old calls out, “Mama, I want to do something, too,” then give him a job as well. A child will feel left out very quickly if you don’t give them something to help you with.
Children need the opportunity to serve in meaningful experiences in order to learn responsibility. When Rebecca was a small girl, she would rinse the dishes for me. I got to the point where I could wash faster when she rinsed them for me. At first, she didn’t help me that much. But, as time went on, she could keep up. That was a real blessing.
Ask them to get the clean diaper, or put the soiled one away. If you are washing furniture, that can be a very delightful thing for a little child to do. They like to help wash off the walls or pick up toys. There’s a saying that goes something like this: “If they can toddle, they can tote.”
As younger parents, we sometimes could not understand why the children would not pick up the toys as willingly as we thought they should. We eventually realized that if we helped them, and maybe even sang a little song with them, that motivated them. Our little Margie can be in the middle of anything, and if we start singing, “Pick up the toys,” she starts singing and picks up her toys. It’s amusing.
Show them by your attitude that they really have accomplished an important task. Later, their daily duties will give them a sense of accomplishment. To be needed is to grow. If you are needed, you can grow better.
In our first twelve years of marriage, we were hog farmers. The boys just loved tagging along after Vernon and asking questions. If I would go to my parents for a day, they didn’t even want to go with me. I couldn’t quite understand this. But one day, after returning home, one of the little boys was so excited. He had seen a coon out back. They had such a fun time at home.
After moving to Michigan, Vernon was a contractor. He took the little boys along. It’s sometimes hard to do that, but he usually took the four-year-olds on up and put them to work. They wouldn’t get paid, but they would bring the nails to him or keep the nailers filled. It really gave them a sense of significance.
Security…If mom and dad have security in one another, the children will catch on to that. Giving them security prepares them to go out and face the world and life’s battles. If your children see you have self-discipline, and that you make little sacrifices for them, it will help to give them security. If they see dad skipping a meal for them, or fasting with one of the children, it gives them security. Or maybe you go without boots so one of the children can have boots. That really ties strings.
One time, one of the children had forgotten their mittens. We were out in the woods. It was cold. I asked him, “Do you want mine?” He didn’t really say that he wanted mine, but I just gave them to him. If they forget something like that, don’t belittle them. Just let them wear yours. The next time, they will be more mindful of it. If they see you suffer for their sake, they won’t be so quick to forget again.
The more caring and sharing you are toward them, the more they will be toward you. At the bank sometimes you get lollipops. I love when I hear it said by the one who has come with me, “I want to give it to my brother who didn’t come along.” Train them to think of others. Quite often, the boys make pancakes for breakfast. They always make a big one for Vernon; or, if they are making cookies, they will make a real small one for the baby.
That reminds me of when we were courting. Vernon’s parents were there one evening. We were Amish, and the Amish had kerosene lamps that you had to go outside to fill. Vernon’s mother was just ready to go outside. Vernon met her at the door and said, “No, you aren’t going out there.” He had thought it was too cold for her. I kept that in my heart. The way a young man treats his sisters and mother is how he will treat his wife.
Acceptance…Tell them you love them. Hold them. Hug them, regardless of whether they’ve done good or bad. Accepting them unconditionally is showing them that you love them. You don’t compare them with one another, but recognize each child as unique. One child may have a knack to get the housework done, while another may have more of a knack with children. I dare not say to the one who baby-sits, “I wish you could manage this house like your sister does,” or to the other, “I wish you had more of a touch with the children.” You get beside them and encourage them in areas they aren’t so sharp in, so they can learn all areas of life.
Accept them for the gifts that they do have. If one has a gift with children, praise him for that. Some naturally have that more than others. If you will accept their gifts, the children will then, in turn, accept each other’s gifts. One of ours is more mechanically minded. I’ll hear the other boys asking him, “How does this work?” One of the boys is into books and education. I hear the other boys asking about music, and he explains that to them. Each one has his own gift, and no one should feel intimidated by another.
The more knowledge they have, the more they can be of service in any given situation. Be careful not to feel that, because you really wanted to do something when you were young but never had the opportunity, now one of your children should pursue that. Your child may have a different calling on his life. Also, I think our children will face things we may never need to face in regards to persecution.
If your child is interested in something, but you don’t really care for it, don’t dampen his spirits. Don’t tell him, “I really wish you would just drop that for now.” Help your child find satisfaction in his own achievements. A wise parent stands beside his child when he ventures out, and encourages him, even in things you have not done. I like to encourage the girls to try out a new casserole or recipe. Teach them as many different things as you can in sewing. They will be of better service if they are taught different things. This will also instill in them a sense of self worth.
Love…There is a need to be loved. One of the greatest joys we can know is to love and be loved. This is not only true for children; it is true for every person—the parent, the unmarried adult in the home, the aged. But it is especially true for the tiny baby, the growing child, or the teenager. They need emotional satisfaction to perform their best. We show our children how much we love them to the degree that we include them in things. As a result, the children will become capable of including other people in their lives and in their love. This will give them a sense of belonging, which will give them the possession of confidence. If we have confidence, we are able to face life.
The amazing part is that our children need love even when they are unlovely. Christ loved us when we were yet sinners. The greatest influence that will give them the ability to love is seeing and feeling their parent’s love for each other. We should not only tell them we love them, but we also need to demonstrate that love to them in non-verbal ways. Hold them, smile, pat them on the shoulder, look deep into their eyes, and just cuddle.
Love also involves trust. We are afraid sometimes to let our daughters go out and help someone because we just aren’t sure if they can do it. I’ve heard in wedding ceremonies about “letting the arrow go.” What hunter goes out to hunt without first practicing with a bow? We need to practice. We need to let them go a little and see if they hit the mark. If they don’t hit the mark right away, don’t be dismayed. Just bring them back in and train them a little more, this way or that way. Then, let them go again. They will eventually hit the mark. You can come to a place of confident assurance that the arrow will hit the mark.
Be willing to listen, and listen carefully, to those little hurts, complaints, and joys. One of my little ones would come up and rub his hands across my arms while I was nursing the baby. At the time I didn’t realize it, but his love language was “touch.” It is a challenge to listen to each one, especially the more you have.
Love is also sharing experiences like baking cookies together, washing dishes, and sharing our work or play. Our love towards our children is what motivates them to be good. We need to love them unconditionally, not because they did extra well, but because they are each a unique gift to God. We need to look deeper than the childhood pranks, and find their real identity. We need to have open and comfortable relationships. We don’t need money or gifts to show them love. Love is taking time for each other.
Praise their performance and not their personality or physical features. They cannot help if they have a cute nose or pretty eyes. They can help their performance. If you are sincere, it will help the child accept congratulations with ease and humility. Praise their acts of kindness and generosity. They need approval. It is especially important that they receive praise from the people that are most important to them, that is, their parents. Praise them for what they do on their own initiative.
For example, one day I looked out the window and saw the boys using the sled to carry wood. All of a sudden, it plopped over. I just opened the door and praised them for the big load they were hauling—and saw a sparkle in their eyes. Later, they came and said that they had cleaned out the dog pen and swept the porch, too.
Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom must temper love. If we have no boundaries or visions of what we want for our children, and never say “no” to them, we are raising them for nothing and for no one. If we love them, praise them, trust them, and accept them, they will believe in our boundaries. If we train them, it will not take as much discipline. The discipline should enhance the training. If we have an ever-present spirit of wanting them to become vessels fit for the Master’s use, we will practice self-control and constancy in discipline. Each wife must work with her own husband as to what vision you have in this matter.
God…Pray for each child by name. Intercede for them individually. The best memories we share as a family are formed when we pray together. That is when our hearts melt together. There is forgiveness there, and a new start. Our vision is this: “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished after the similitude of a palace” (Psalm 144:12).
Finally, I have a parable. I ask myself, “Which of these am I?”
I took a little child’s hand in mine. He and I were to walk together for a while. I was to lead him to the Father. It was a task that overcame me. So awful was the responsibility. I talked to the little child only of the Father. I painted the sternness of the Father’s face. We walked under tall trees. I said, “The Father has power to send them crashing down, struck by His thunderbolts.” We walked in the sunshine. I told him of the greatness of the Father, who made the burning and blazing sun. In the twilight we met the Father. The child hid behind me. The child was afraid. He would not look up at the face, so loving. He remembered my picture. He would not put his hand in my Father’s hand. I was between the Father and the child. I wondered. I had been so serious and conscientious.
I took the little child’s hand in mine. I was to lead him to the Father. I felt burdened by the multitude of things I was supposed to teach him. We did not ramble. We hastened on from spot to spot. At one moment, we compared the leaves of the trees; the next moment, we were examining the bird’s nest. While the child was questioning me about it, I drew him away to chase the butterfly. If he chanced to fall asleep, I would waken him, lest he should miss something. We spoke of the Father often and rapidly. I poured into his ears all of the stories I wished him to know. We were often interrupted by the wind blowing, of which we must speak, or the coming of the stars, which we must study, or the gurgling of the brook, which we must trace to its source. And then in the twilight, we met the Father. The child merrily glanced at Him. The Father stretched out His hand, but the child was not interested enough to take it. Feverish spots burned on his cheeks, he dropped exhausted to the ground, and fell asleep. Again, I was between the Father and the child. I wondered. I had taught him so many, many things.
I took a little child’s hand in mine to lead Him to the Father. My heart was full of gratitude for the glad privilege. We walked slowly. I suited myself for the short steps of the child. We spoke of the things the child noticed. One time it was one of the Father’s birds. We watched it build its nest, and saw the eggs that were laid. We wondered later at the care it gave its young. Sometimes we picked the Father’s flowers, and stroked their soft petals, and loved their bright colors. Often we told stories of the Father. I told them to the child, and the child told them to me. We told them, the child and I, over and over again. Sometimes we stopped to rest, leaning against the Father’s trees and letting His air cool our brows—and never speaking. In the twilight, we met the Father. The child’s eyes shone. He looked up lovingly, trustingly, and eagerly into the Father’s face. He put his hand in the Father’s hand. I was, for the moment, forgotten. I was content.
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