In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing 14 ways to show your child love.
1. Make time to be together
It goes without saying that the more time you spend with your family, the more bonding you can enjoy. This photo is from a time that I agreed to be in a show with my theatrical daughter, but not all family time has to be such a huge commitment.
Make a family game night once a week. Volunteer in your child’s class or participate in their extracurricular activities. Take walks. Go to the park. Build a puzzle together. Turn off electronics in the car and just talk.
Make little moments count!
2. Help kids learn from their mistakes
Kids make mistakes often. This means they have many chances to learn.
If we try to fix it all for them, it teaches them that they’re not good enough to do it themselves.
Don’t be harsh with your words when kids mess up. Harsh words scar and might keep kids from trying the next time!
Support kids and help them learn what went wrong. Try role-playing to see how they could have done it differently and maybe next time they can practice how to make a better choice.
3. Turn off screens and tune in
There are many studies that show parents are distracted by their phones and computers.
Turn your screens off to be able to give full attention to your kids. Make sure they have screen time limits too.
I’m on my computer a lot now, but when my kids were young I only worked online when my kids were in bed. (Now they stay up later than I do, but they’re not home in the evenings.)
Even when I’m on call I don’t answer my phone during family meals because I wanted to model to my kids that family time should not have interruptions from phones. (Note: there are physicians who have to answer immediately due to true emergency calls, but they calls I get should not be emergencies.)
4. Assign chores
My daughter actually laughed at this one when she was reviewing my blog.
I’ve never been really good at enforcing chores on a regular basis despite the fact that I know they help kids build self confidence and grow into productive adults.
Be a better parent than I’ve been in this regard and have your child do daily or weekly chores. I know it’s faster and easier to just do things yourself, but your kids will benefit from the work!
5. Set limits
My daughter also laughed at this one. She is totally the child who will debate any rule. She will follow them if they’re set, but she will attempt to show why the rule should be stretched. I’m proud of her for that characteristic. I don’t want kids that will just follow the leader, but I know that I can’t be an effective parent if there are no limits.
There are tips on limit setting for strong-willed kids on Aha Parenting that I really like.
6. Eat family meals together
Families that eat together stay together. There are studies showing that when families eat meals regularly together, kids benefit in many ways.
We tend to eat healthier if we eat home cooked meals. This leads to a healthier overall body.
Meal times also provide time for bonding. This can lead to less drug use and depression. It makes sense. If kids are connected to their parents, they will have less need to find other ways to make themselves feel good.
Studies show that kids actually do better academically if they eat with their family at least 5 days a week.
All this and it’s less expensive to eat at home. Bonus!
7. Read together
Okay, I’m cheating with this photo a bit. I didn’t ever take pics of reading with my kids, but took one a few years ago when my daughter was reading to her cousin during a car trip.
Despite not having photos of our nighttime rituals, books were the best part of bedtime when my kids were young.
They loved hearing stories. Sometimes we’d play “I spy” with the book we’d read so many times they had it memorized. Sometimes they’d read to me – more and more as they got older. They’d often try to bargain for more reading time. Reading was a great motivator for them to get dressed and brush teeth so we could get started!
Reading together is not only a great bonding time, but it also helps to set the stage for loving a great skill. Many studies over the years continue to show that reading with children starting when they’re infants helps them learn to speak, interact and bond with parents. They will be more likely to be early readers. Reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to you, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.
8. Serve together
Doing community service or volunteering to help others has been shown to benefit not only the persons being served, but also those serving.
Kids can develop pride, learn new skills, gain empathy for others, and live new experiences by helping others.
Studies show that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
Volunteering allows families doing things together working on something productive. They can learn about themselves and each other through helping others.
9. Make physical contact
One of the love languages is physical touch. Sometimes we hear of improper touches and it can negatively impact the way we are able to interact with the kids around us. While I feel very strongly that we need to protect our kids against abusive touches, I also know that kids (and adults) need healthy and safe physical touch.
Never invade a child’s personal space if they don’t want you in it, but physical touch can be reassuring to kids. Give a hug or pat on the back. Tickling and playful roughhousing are fun ways to give physical touch. Dance. Hold hands or make up a fun handshake. Tousle hair as you walk by.
10. Don’t minimize worries
It’s tempting to just say that everything’s okay and to not worry, but when you say that your child just feels like he’s not heard. Over time he will stop talking to you about his worries.
If you have a hard time understanding your child’s anxieties (or anyone’s anxieties) read this great metaphor from Karen Young at HeySigmund.
Acknowledge the fears and teach your kids how to overcome them.
HeySigmund is one of my favorite blogs. It has great articles on helping kids learn to manage their anxieties.
11. Praise the effort
Our society tends to reward everything. Participation trophies are not helpful at growing resilient kids.
Poorly worded and empty praise can reduce children’s desires to take on challenges, lower achievement, reduce motivation and even make kids more interested in tearing others down.
Learn to show your kids that you’re attentive with phrases that show you acknowledge their effort or character traits without praising results.
For more on giving helpful praise, see Michelle Borba’s 6 New Rules for Praising to Raise Kind, Successful Kids.
12. Let them learn independence
It can be hard to watch kids grow up and take things into their own hands, but it can be rewarding to watch them become independent.
Allowing kids to take on more responsibilities as they grow is a great way to show confidence in them. It can be hard to worry that your child will not remember all aspects of things required or that they will fail at something new, but allowing them to take ownership of things as they get older helps them learn not only the skill to accomplish things, but it also gives them the confidence that they can do things on their own.
13. Let them know you’re always thinking of them
Giving gifts is a great way to show love and affection, but don’t overdo this one.
Not all gifts have to be costly or extravagant.
Leave a little note in the lunch box.
Buy a token gift for no reason occasionally.
Be there to cheer at their game or performance.
It can be that easy.
14. Say “I love you” every day
Saying “I love you” in words is also important. Some people aren’t good at saying it, but try.
I also encourage you to not only share moments, but get in front of the camera with your kids. I’m usually behind the camera taking the pictures, so there are very few photos of me with my kids at various life stages. Be in the photos so you can all walk down memory lane together.