I did it. Daily. Every moment it came to mind. I told my daughters how much I loved them. And from a very early age I always told them there was nothing they could do that would make me stop loving them. Oh, I made it clear I did not like some of their actions. In fact, I did get angry and fuss at them to pick up after themselves, clean their rooms, and do their homework. I’d get upset when they “back talked” me or rolled their eyes. Man, was that ever frustrating! But at the end of the day, I told them I loved them, and that although I did not like or approve of their actions, what they did had no effect on my love for them.
As they got older, my husband and I made it clear that if they ever got into trouble and were arrested, they would spend the night in jail. We explained we loved them enough to allow the consequences of their actions to be paid. Oh, sure, I rescued them too many times by bringing my younger daughter’s homework up to school or helping my older daughter with a last minute project. They knew I was not happy with their lack of planning. But I made sure they were never confused that their actions determined my love. One had nothing to do with the other.
Because of this relationship, my daughters shared things most teens never would. Their friends would panic at what I had been told, but my girls knew I always had their best interests at heart. We would talk through options of what they could or should do. They talked, I listened, and only then would we discuss. My goal was to remain calm and open. Even though on the inside I’d be screaming or crying, I had to let them (or lead them) to what were their options and consequences. Teaching them problem solving and critical thinking was my goal. I didn’t always succeed, but I tried.
That’s one reason my daughter was able to tell me she had been inappropriately “touched” by another student at her elementary school. I comforted her as she cried, holding her, telling her she did nothing wrong to cause it, and she did the right thing by telling me. Before school next morning I told her teacher. My concern was for the boy as well—where had he seen such actions that he would mimic them? My goal was for the boy to understand it was wrong to touch others like that. He needed to know and learn body boundaries, and that he had crossed the line. Her teacher immediately took me to the vice-principal and the boy was sent to “detention school” for three days. I cried when I found out, because my intent had been for him to get counseling. I believe at that age he needed to be taught, not just punished. I don’t know if he was ever counseled on his actions—my fear is he was not. His father left a message on our answering machine, yelling at me, calling me all sorts of names for getting his son sent to detention. I had my answer. The problem was deeper than just one action of his son.
Our children are our most precious treasure. They are priceless and irreplaceable. It is our responsibility to treat them as such. But love is not allowing them to do whatever they want and providing all the comforts and desires of their heart. That is the most unloving thing we can do. Love is about an investment in time and creating a relationship where they are taught kindness and responsibility.
Does your child know, really understand how precious they are to you? Have you told them they can do nothing to make you stop loving them? Have you taught them their actions deserve consequences, good and bad, but that their actions cannot alter your love for them? If not, don’t wait. Do it now. Give them the greatest gift they will ever receive from you…your faithful, unfailing love.