The primary factor in raising children is love. If parents can just learn to treat their children with love and consideration, the children will feel loved and secure.
Most parents can’t be with their children all the time, but it’s difficult for small children to understand that. Children think they should be the most important things in the world to their parents, so when the parents can’t show them constant attention because of other obligations, it hurts the children–and of course, the more children you have, the less individual time and attention you can give each one. That’s why it’s so important for parents to tune in to their children and give them love and attention when they do have the opportunity.
The first step is to pray for understanding of your children. Ask the Lord to show you what each child needs in each situation, and then do the little things that can mean so much.
Everybody needs to feel special to somebody, to have a personal sense of belonging. No matter how many children you have, you can still give each one something special–either special attention or a special something that means a lot to them–and you should try to do this consistently so none of them think they’re just one more child in the line-up.
Give each one lots of love and encouragement, because words have the power to build them up and help them feel loved. “Look what a big boy you are! We’re so proud of you. You’ve learned so much!” Say things that will let them know they really are special to you.
Small children, especially, don’t yet have a concept of time, so if you give one child something and tell the others that theirs will come next time, “next time” will probably seem a long way away and very nebulous. So in most cases when you give one something, you should try to do a little something special for the others too.
You can’t and shouldn’t treat all of your children the same all the time. Each needs to know they are special in their own way. And when one needs something that the others don’t, they have to be taught that it’s according to need, not because one is more loved. If you take one out to get a needed pair of shoes, for example, and you bring the others back a little toy or something that may cost only a few cents, this shows that you love them and remembered them too.
A lot of adults don’t realize how important it is to explain things to children. You can’t just assume that they understand. How can they understand hardly anything unless you explain it to them? Most adults don’t take things without some kind of explanation, and children have as much right to an explanation as anybody. If you think there could be any question in their minds or hurt feelings, explain. Even if they can’t understand everything you say, just the fact that you try to explain it conveys to them that you’re concerned about their feelings, and that will help.
It’s nearly always a problem when somebody else comes along, like a new baby, who they think is going to take their place. Children’s feelings are just the same as adults’, only difficult situations can be even more traumatic for children when they haven’t experienced those things before and therefore don’t have the assurance that things usually work out in the end. That’s why children are so much more vulnerable than adults, because of their very limited experience. So you have to treat children even more carefully and tenderly and considerately than adults.
It breaks my heart when I see parents in public places cuff their child on the head or lash out over something that the poor child probably didn’t understand in the first place. It’s tragic! Children are more sensitive and more easily hurt than adults. They instinctively love and trust their parents, and to destroy that is really sad!
Children aren’t that hard to understand if you just put yourself in their position. The experiences they go through are very similar to the things we adults go through, only harder for them to understand and harder for them to take. When we go through difficulties, even though we know that if we pray the Lord will work things out and see us through, it’s still often difficult. But when children go through these things, they’re sort of lost unless we do everything possible to reassure them with love.
I once heard a true story about a boy who went to a banquet and found he was the only male guest. He was so nervous that he knocked over his glass of water. The hostess saw his embarrassment and immediately knocked over her glass to draw everyone’s attention away from the boy and spare his feelings. Without saying a word, she reassured him that it was okay; everyone makes mistakes.
A little love goes a long way! Children are bound to have problems, but no matter what the problem stems from, love can correct it. Even if you don’t understand what the problem is, the Lord understands–and the answer is love! “Love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12 NIV). Just a little love and concern can make up for a lot of mistakes and failures, no matter who or what is to blame. Anybody–child or adult–can be helped by love! Love is the answer!