Charles was almost sure his pre-teen daughter Sara knew she was loved even when she misbehaved. But he wanted his “almost” to be an “absolutely,” so he asked her: “Honey, do you know that you are loved, even when you misbehave?”
Sara answered quickly. “No.” She didn’t justify her answer.
Charles was shocked. After all, he is a loving and thoughtful dad who has worked hard to communicate his love. Yet Sara not only didn’t know it, she was quick in her answer. She decisively declared that she often didn’t feel loved when misbehaving.
The fact that Sara — parented by thoughtful, loving parents — did not always feel loved when she misbehaved is an indication that there are probably lots of kids like her. Unfortunately, even though parents almost unanimously say that they love their kids unconditionally, many of their kids doubt that they are loved unconditionally.
If we want to make sure our children understand our unconditional love for them, we need to be intentional and make sure that the message of love we want to communicate to our children is actually landing. The only opportunity for love to land as truly unconditional is in misbehavior or failure. So don’t waste a good crisis!
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This does not mean that all we do in discipline is to express love. Our children need us to engage purposely in helping them learn wise beliefs and helpful behavior. But what would happen if every time Christian parents disciplined their children they would start with consideration for these powerful biblical teachings about love:
- “… that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).
- “The goal of our instruction is love …” (1 Timothy 1:5).
- “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
- “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16).
Since God’s very essence is love, it only makes sense that we practice God’s love, even as, ESPECIALLY as, we discipline our children.