Dr. Gary Chapman is the senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He’s also an international public speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages which has sold more than five million copies and has been translated into nearly 40 languages. Dr. Chapman holds several academic degrees including a Ph.D. in adult education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Age & StageEveryday ParentingGrace-based ParentingLoveLove LanguagesParentingParenting TechniquesParenting TraitSpiritual Growth
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Why Neglectful Parenting Falls Short
Do you feel like your life is mostly chaos? You have an opportunity to overcome neglectful parenting habits to build a strong foundation for your kids and family.
The most fundamental gifts we can give our children are acceptance, stability, and most importantly, love. Of course, parents love their children. But love is not only a noun, it's also a verb. Showing love to your child can, at times, be complicated.
There are small ways to express your love to your child so they feel it—and that feeling of a parent's love can improve every aspect of their life.
"Love and security assures them they don't need to worry about adult-sized problems and it gives them the freedom to just be kids," says Amy Morin, a psychotherapist, host of the Mentally Strong People podcast, and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do. "When kids feel secure and loved, they are free to focus on other things—like learning and creativity."
Read on to learn what experts say will help your child feel more loved.
6 Little Ways to Help Kids Be More Emotionally Intelligent
Listen to Your Kid
Your child wants to know they are important to you. A good way to do that? Make sure your child knows you're interested in their thoughts. "Put down the electronics and show a genuine interest in what your kids have to say," says Morin. "Talk to them, ask for their opinions about various real-world subjects, and demonstrate that their thoughts and ideas matter to you."
Have Fun Together
There's no need to make everything a learning activity or a challenge. Find ways to simply have fun together. "Play games, be silly, and step into their world," suggests Morin. "Allow for unstructured time just to be together. This is the best way to bond with kids and show them that you value them enough to create time to spend together."
Hug Them More
Saying "I love you" to your child is very important, but don't underestimate the power physical touch has in reinforcing the loving bond you have with your children. "Especially for teenagers, that no longer come running asking for it, they still need the physical reassurance—same as adults," says Peg Sadie, a psychotherapist and self-care coach. "Make the effort to hug them each and every day as much as possible."
Go For Small Gestures
Not the lovey-dovey type? Parents can still demonstrate their love with small gestures. Morin suggests parents write notes and put it in their lunch, offer praise, give high fives, and say kind things about your kids in front of other people. "Your actions speak volumes about how much you care for them," she insists. "They will feel loved when you do extra little things for them or when you say nice things about them."
Create a Special Routine Together
This ritual doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. The commodity you are giving your child is your time. "Maybe it's a fun bedtime saying or routine, or making their favorite cookies together on Sundays," says Sadie. "Whatever it is, do it routinely and make it unique and special for each child."
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Include Your Kid in Family Decisions
Asking children for their input whether it's where to get take-out for dinner or something bigger like what they think about relocating acknowledges that what they have to say matters and that you value their opinion. "Knowing that they, too, have a say increases their feeling of belonging as well as security," says Sadie.
Keep Structure in Your Home
Children thrive on consistency. "Maintain the child's bedtime, mealtimes, wake-up time, homework schedule, and extra-curricular activities," says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., family and relationship psychotherapist, and author of The Self-Aware Parent. "The more stable your child's life and routine the more they will feel secure and loved, and the less anxiety they will suffer."
Pay Attention to All Your Kids Equally
If you have two or more children, making each feel loved, secure, and important takes a bit more planning and thought. How to do that?
First: honor their individuality. Don't compare your children and support all of their talents and pursuits. "If one kid wants to be a soccer player and the other wants to play the clarinet, show them that you value their interests—even when they aren't things you can relate to," says Morin.
Second: spend individual time with each child. Every child wants and needs to feel important and be front and center in the mind of their parent, says Dr. Walfish. Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes each day giving one-on-one attention while doing an activity your kid loves. This is another time when experts say you should shut your phone off and pay complete attention to your kid.
Realize Family Dynamics Matter
You may not realize that family dynamics are impacting your child but your kid's environment can play a role in making them feel your love. Kids learn a lot about relationships by seeing how their parents interact. "Parents who show affection and love for each other teach kids how to treat family members," says Morin. Being a good role model is important since your child watches everything you do.
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Understand Material Things Don't Equate to Love
It may sound cliché, but kids really do prefer your presence rather than your presents. Morin urges parents to think back to their own childhoods and consider what they remember most. "You'll likely recall doing fun activities with your parents," says Morin. "And you probably don't remember what you got for your birthday when you were 10. With that in mind, it's important to think about the life lessons you want your kids to learn and the type of memories you want to create with them."
Support Your Child Even When They Slip
Children need to know they are loved even if they make a mistake. "Be their support," says Laura Gerak, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist at Akron Children's Hospital. Express that you're proud of them for taking responsibility and then use it as a learning opportunity for the future. Dr. Gerak suggests parents discuss the situation and pose these questions: What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?
"This gives them the message they aren't always going to be perfect, no one is, but that you have faith they will figure it out and they are competent to manage this," says Dr. Gerak. At the same time, you are also building their confidence since you are helping them find ways to fix their mistakes rather than stepping in for them. A double win!
Is it possible to love your child but not like them?
But love and like are not the same thing, and one does not always lead to the other. You will always love your children, but you may not always like them, and that's okay.
What do you do when you don't like your own child?
What to Do When You Dislike Your Child.
Acknowledge Your Feelings. ... .
Identify the Cause of Your Feelings. ... .
Manage Your Expectations. ... .
Get to Know Your Child Better. ... .
Stay positive. ... .
Commit to Not Criticizing. ... .
When There's a Personality Clash with Your Child. ... .
Is it OK to not like a child?
Some people are certain they want to have children, others are certain they don't want to have children, and still others are unsure. It sounds like you fall squarely in the category of being certain you do not want to have children. There is nothing wrong with you for making this decision.
What is cold mother syndrome?
Emotionally absent or cold mothers can be unresponsive to their children's needs. They may act distracted and uninterested during interactions, or they could actively reject any attempts of the child to get close. They may continue acting this way with adult children.