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Do your children know you love them?

March 3rd, 2010 / 7 Comments

I hear many teenagers tell me, “My parents only care about ________(fill in the blank with “my grades”, “not embarrassing them”, “keeping my room clean”, etc.). They don’t care about ME.”

What do they mean their parents don’t care about them?? I bet their parents would die for them. Yet that message doesn’t get across to the kids. Why?

A parent’s job does not make us very popular. We make our kids to eat spinach. We have to say “No” to what they want. We push them to do their homework. Just the nature of our job to teach our children right from wrong would  give the impression that we are harsh.

Is there anything we can do about that?

It’s All About Relationship

The discipline that we do as parents would be uncaring and cold if it is not done in the context of a strong positive relationship. Parenting is not a task. It’s not to “get children to behave”. Parenting is first and foremost a relationship with our children.

Here are some ways to build that relationship:

1. Relationships are built on positive memories. I spent about an hour with my 22-year-old son yesterday and took him to the airport for his trip to San Francisco. When I dropped him off, he said, “Thanks for coming, mom. It was a lot of fun.” Those  words were so sweet to me! Do you have fun with your children?  How much time do you spend with your kids just doing fun things? Do you laugh together? Do silly things together? Enjoy games together?

2. Relationships are built on common interests. Due to the age difference, we may not naturally have common interests with our children. It takes intentional effort on our part to participate in what our children are interested in. I first started blogging because I wanted to keep in step with what my son was doing on the computer. What are your children’s interests? How can you make that your hobby as well?

3. Relationships are built on kind words. If you were to record everything you say to your children in a day, what percentage would be affirming words? What percentage would be commands? What percentage would be in an angry tone? Would you want to be in the receiving end of your own words? Words of encouragement should outweigh words of discipline.

In May, I will be giving a workshop at a family conference on the topic of discipline. While I will be sharing practical tips, the primary focus will be to build a strong relationship with children. Without that, our kids will grow up to say we don’t care about them.

Express Your Love in Words

Parents take it for granted that kids know we love them. After all, why else would we pay for their designer clothes and vacations? But kids don’t see life as we do. They do take us for granted. We’ve all been there with our own parents too, haven’t we?

So it’s important that we sincerely say those 3 words – I love you. Look them in the eye. Tell them you are proud to be their mom/dad. Let them know, in words, that they can count on you to love them unconditionally.

I did not grow up in an expressive family. Honestly, it takes a bit of effort for me to tell my children I love them. But I don’t want to leave it to chance that they can read my mind. Your efforts will go a long way.

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  1. Katy, what your (adult) son said to you in the airport is a wonderful testimonial to decades of intentional and warm parenting and (as a parent of 13 and 10 year olds) I was genuinely touched and encouraged by that.

    This post is a beautiful balance to the tension and stress we feel to “get it right”, to “get THEM right”, and as you say to make them behave better.

    I’ve always found Chapman’s Love Languages extremely helpful in communicating love to people generally but especially my own family. I’ve even bought the book for my coaching clients and work colleagues and said “Don’t talk to me any more (Or don’t go pay a therapist) until you’ve read this and tried it”. Every time they come back with stories to tell of relationships revamped and reconciled.

    I’m going to make sure I tell both boys before they leave for school today that I love them. Thanks again, Katy. Sage writing!

  2. Thanks, Pete. I agree, Chapman’s book is excellent, and should be read by all. I am still trying to get my husband to read it… 🙂

  3. I constantly tell my kids I Love You I think almost too much and never, I repeat never get it said back. I get no hugs or thank you’s and I rarely discipline. Havn’t had the need but know I will one day.

  4. Sandy, do your kids write notes of appreciation to you instead of saying it? I hope they do express their love for you in some way, it may not be in words.

  5. I have read Chapmans book as well as Yes your teenager is crazy and Get out of my life but take me to the mall first. I seem to be right on with my parenting skills but the results don’t seem to be showing yet. My kids are G-12, B-15 they are good kids just don’t seem to appreciate all they have.

  6. Sandy, “yet” is a good word. Our kids are very privileged, and unfortunately, that’s part of the problem.
    Have you read “Have a New Kid by Friday” by Kevin Leman? He talks about some that of attitude.

  7. I’ll try that book. Thanks!


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