Few parents need a Hallmark holiday to inspire them to tell a child "I love you." Most of us cover our kids with hugs and kisses long after they're highly embarrassed by our public displays of affection.
February brings shelves full of chocolate kisses, saccharin poems, and a stack of kid-friendly valentines. But aside from all the holiday hoopla, Valentine's Day gives the chance to pause. To remind ourselves that loving our kids, even when we can't stand something they're doing, requires willingness, patience, and practicing a few time-honored principles:
Say Yes Instead of saying no right away to your child's request (however outlandish) consider these questions: Is it illegal? Immoral? Unsafe? Out of budget? Developmentally inappropriate? If the answer is no, maybe it's time to say yes and let your child experience a parent who honors his request.
Separate the Child From the Behavior One of the biggest challenges to loving our kids occurs when we can't stand what they're doing. In these situations, it is often helpful to calmly but forcefully tell your child "I don't like (the behavior), but that has nothing to do with my love for you."
Praise Often Mark Twain once said, "I can live two months on one good compliment!" Many experts agree that the positive things you say to your child should outweigh the negatives by three to one. Be very specific in your compliments and look for ways to praise your child's skills, talents, and abilities.
Keep Your Ego Out of It Everyone loves a winner, but if we become too attached to the rush of adrenaline we get every time our child wins a race, gets an A, or accomplishes some other wonder, we run the risk of placing conditions on our love for them. "Your children were not born to complete your life," William Martin writes in The Parent's Tao Te Ching. Check your ego at the door and realize that kids learn at least as much from failure, as they do from success. Either way, they need your support.
Listen Deeply Instead of talking first, try letting your child steer the conversation. Reflect back what you hear, don't rush, and allow pauses and quiet spaces as your child finds his words.
Be There For many kids, the feeling of being loved by their parents has as much to do with time spent together, as actual words or compliments. Whether you warm benches at little league games or cuddle every night with a book, enter and honor your child's world.
Valentine's Day happens just once a year. But ultimately, it's all the days in between that matter. There is no gift as great as unconditional love. So give it today, and every day!