Three months before I graduated high school, I left my home. I was just 18. My departure was difficult. However, even with some tension and hurt between us, I left assuming my parents loved me. But I did not leave feeling loved.
I believe there are several reasons that I did not feel their love. We were struggling to integrate a blended family. We were a young Christian family just beginning to learn about love. During this time, there was little peace as my parents worked through these challenges. We were all learning to express intimate emotions and affection. Based on our relationship today, I am quite certain they loved me. In hindsight, I also understand why I left not feeling their love.
When Our Kids Leave
My wife and I recently changed some of our parenting techniques for the benefit of the two kids we still have in our home. I have always assumed that successful parenting resulted in your child graduating high school with a plan for the next four to six years; a good measure of self-confidence, self-esteem; and a desire to follow Jesus. My goal has been to help my boys enter manhood well, and help my daughter grow graciously into womanhood. Today, my wife and I agree that successful parenting will now look like this:
“When our children leave our home, they will leave feeling assured they were, and are, loved.”
I want my children to walk out the door with the confidence that we love them, no matter their mistakes, and beyond their successes. I want our children to feel the extent of our love so deeply, that they are able to identify genuine love, and know that it originates from God.
But the Greatest is Love
When a child feels loved, they will have assurance in so many other things. They will know that their parents believe in them. They will know that they can always come home. Feeling loved will build confidence and self-worth. When a child feels loved by their parents, especially their father, it makes it easier to believe that God loves them.
Feeling this love will drive a child toward loving others. It will encourage them to extend grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Feeling loved will build Christ-like character, and a heart to serve others that reflects His goodness.
This doesn’t mean that your house is a smaller version of Disneyland. It includes discipline and correction (Hebrews 12:6), as well as intentional teaching. Ensuring that your child feels loved begins with you extending the love that you feel, specifically from God. It involves time spent with them, both of quality and in quantity. It requires physical touch and moments of intimacy. If you’re not a “touchy feely” person and you have kids, learn to be now. They need it.
You Are Not Alone
For those of you who are single parents, or raising children that are not your own, the privilege of loving these children is now yours to enjoy. Even when circumstances are not God’s first choice, children still require this same measure of steadfast love and commitment. Children loved in any environment that encourages, hopes, and believes in them, have access to the same positive outcomes as those raised in the presence of their mom and dad. What you offer, single-handedly, by choice, is precious and enough with the sustaining love of the Savior.
And if you are one who did not experience this love as a child, you are still able to make love available to your children. This is where God’s good grace comes in. We can lean on His promise, through the Apostle Peter, where “love covers a multitude of sins.”
For me, one of the most encouraging and challenging scriptures about parenting is Ephesians 6:4 (and I love the way the Amplified Translations says it):
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving-kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
May all of us entrusted with children, bring them up tenderly, with loving-kindness, so they will rest assured of our love for them. May we glorify God in our dedication to these children, and may our love point them to the one True Love.