Our kids know they are loved unconditionally, right? Or do they? As parents, we often take this fact for granted. Here is a story about the power of unconditional love from the Connected Families community:
Mitch was only in his early twenties, but he confidently welcomed the congregation at a church we attended where he was a new pastor. We knew his family, and reflected back to when he wasn’t so confident!
Ten years ago, Mitch’s high-powered executive dad, Andy, had been pretty determined to deal firmly with Mitch’s predictable avoidance and meltdowns over 6th grade math homework. When Andy asked me (Jim) for advice, he was quite skeptical of the suggestion to express love-no-matter-what when Mitch was upset and resisting math. “That’ll just make him think his behavior is ok – and it’s not,” Andy protested.
It was clear to Andy that things were getting worse (not better) with his firm approach, so he decided to give my suggestion a try. The next time Mitch began to get upset over math, Andy very sincerely expressed his unconditional love, no matter how math might go that night. Mitch sobbed in relief as his dad hugged him. They began to work as a team, and Mitch began to feel successful at math for the first time. Andy later told me, “He’s a different kid. And I have to admit, I’m a different dad.”
If you want to read the full story check out pages 91-93 in our book, Discipline that Connects With Your Child’s Heart.
He became a different dad
Many years later, during our conversation after the church service, Mitch shared with us, “I don’t remember that math incident, but I do remember how whenever something was hard for me, Dad would remind me that his love for me was absolutely unrelated to how well I did. I told him once when I was in seminary about a class that was really challenging. My dad told me, ‘Remember son, we’ve all got different gifts and challenges. Your value and God’s purposes don’t change because this is hard. You’ll get through it.’”
Mitch revealed that indeed Andy had become a different dad through the concept of “You are LOVED no matter what.”
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.Galatians 5:6
Since our ministry is now 20 years old, it’s a joy to hear back from some of the early families we worked with, and see the long-term fruit of the principles from the Connected Families Framework. Mitch is a confident, caring young man who loves Jesus deeply, and is serving others with his people skills, not his math skills. 😉
Stories like this make us even more confident to communicate to parents the essential nature of the message, “You are LOVED no matter what… even when you are really struggling and feel like you least deserve that love.” Romans 8:38,39 are wonderful verses about the unstoppable, unconditional love of Christ for us! We’ve applied those concepts to parenting and made a beautiful download for you. Click HERE to get this free and encouraging PDF.
Top 15 reasons for unconditional love:
We compiled for you our top 15 reasons for expressing unconditional love when kids are struggling the most. What would you add to the list?
- is the best way for kids to experience a representation of God’s love and grace for sinners. (Romans 5:8)
- builds emotional security in kids. When children understand that love is not earned by performance they know their value is not at risk.
- helps strengthen kids to withstand peer pressure and resist seeking the approval of peers.
- protects against the “gotta get it right” perfectionism that steals joy, authenticity, and creativity.
- keeps kids from forming a problem-child identity: “When I act bad, I am bad.”
- brings the culture of Christ into families and deepens spiritual hunger. (Luke 1:17)
- calms hearts and helps kids listen to other people’s perspectives.
- bonds your heart to your child in enduring ways, and is the foundation for a connected relationship through the teen years and beyond.
- frees kids to take responsibility for their sins instead of focusing on your anger. (Romans 2:4)
- encourages kids to serve out of true compassion, not out of a need to get affirmation, or to soothe shame.
- grows kids to become dispensers of grace to others and naturally seek grace-filled relationships in life.
- trains kids to become loving spouses and parents.
- blesses you, as the parent, when you are the channel for God’s love!
- can even heal your heart from hurt if you didn’t receive that unconditional love as a child. (We’ve seen it happen many times.)
- honors Jesus’ work on the cross which is our model and source of unconditional love. (Picture him washing the feet of those who would betray or desert him just before dying on the cross for all of us.)
After reading Mitch’s story and the list of fifteen reasons you might be deeply inspired to bring God’s unconditional love to your child. And then, reality hits, and you might scream at that same child 15 minutes from now! We acknowledge that this can be so hard when your child’s behavior is really difficult. We get it, we’ve been there. But there is so much hope!
But how do we accomplish this?
We were not meant to do this alone
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:17-19
Ephesians 3:17-19 gives insight into how this can happen:
- Supernatural power – “I pray that you… may have… power…” When you receive and pass on the wide, long, high and deep love of Christ to your misbehaving child, the source is not a teeth-gritting performance, but a powerful partnership with the Holy Spirit.
As Lydia, our newest Connected Families parent coach has shared,
“When one of my kids is really struggling and I’m overwhelmed, I sense Jesus right in the room with us, full of love and confidence. I know He is saying ‘I’m here with you, we’re gonna get through this together.’ That gives me the peace and strength to lean toward my child and pass along that unconditional love, often with the same words God has just spoken to my heart or sometimes with just reassuring touch.”
- Support – Isolation is a set up for failure. For this holy calling of showing unconditional love in misbehavior, you need others to encourage you and pray for you along the way (James 5:16). Find a small group, a prayer partner, or a safe, encouraging person you can call when things get tough. This is what “together with all the saints” looks like!
Expressing your unconditional love in the midst of a struggle is when you can most effectively let your child know he is loved-no-matter-what. And there is nothing more important as a parent than understanding and passing on the unconditional love of Jesus to your children.
Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook 4 Messages Every Child Longs to Hear: A Discipline That Connects Overview.