Loving my children should seem like a natural, motherly instinct -- and in many ways it is. Real love requires stretching myself by denying my flesh, like when I want to lash out in frustration. That's definitely not love defined!
Unfortunately, it's more natural for me to give into the frustration rather than to control it.
When I have not spent adequate or consistent time sitting and the Lord's feet and allowing Him to pour into me, I run dry on pouring into others. I rely on my own strength so often as a mother.
Meeting with Jesus isn't just some discipline to be mastered. It isn't just some thing to check off my to-do list. It isn't something just to announce on Instagram. Meeting with Jesus is fuel for my soul and building, brick by brick, a deeper relationship with Him.
If I want to know the heart of Jesus for my children, understand the mind of God as a mother, and be filled with the Holy Spirit for strength, I must show up in the secret place.
As a mother raising children to know Christ, I can't afford not to know Him myself!
So, how can I love my children beyond the surface of emotion and words alone? What does love even look like beyond the strong feelings I have for my children?
The Bible has given us the perfect framework we need to model love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
7 Ways to Practice Loving Your Children Daily
One way to show love to our children is by showing them patience. The more patient we become because of love, the deeper that love goes. When I consider my children fighting in the morning, I have a choice to make. I can respond in frustration, further exasperating the scene, or I can choose to slow my reactive response because love is patient. Responding in frustration is not love. It is a fleshly, albeit selfish response because I am bothered.
Love is patient.
- Practice Kindness.
Being kind has seemed to become a lost art. Even inside families. A harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). I think we believe that because we are the adults, we do not need to follow the golden rule. But all too often I realize children do not receive the same respect that is demanded of them. As a parent, I can discipline my child and still be kind.
Our children should be treated with kindness and spoken to with kind words. Name calling is not only unloving, for an adult it's immature. Belittling our children for making mistakes will not show your child love, it will only show them guilt and shame. In many ways, it could even be considered bullying. How tragic! Let's honor our children with kindness.
Love is kind.
- Practice Truth.
There are two parts to this practice:
First, it is our duty to teach truth to our children. Jesus is Truth and Jesus is the Word. So by reading and teaching the Bible to our children every day, we are planting the knowledge of Truth within their hearts.
The second way to practice truth is to live it in front of your children and train them to live it out as well. When something goes against God's word, we need to stand up for Truth because we love Jesus and His ways best.
Love rejoices with the truth.
- Practice Protection.
Learning truth is only part of the equation. The most practical way to put truth into action is by protecting our children from the lusts of the world, especially when they are young.
Protection doesn't only come in the form of physical protection, but even more importantly, spiritual protection. It would be unwise to fill our children with worldly ways and expect them not to be lured into them.
Not only do we need to protect our children, as they grow older we need to train them how to protect themselves. Sure, we can live in the world -- but we are specifically called not to be of it. To not be engaged in its ways.
Love always protects.
- Practice Trust.
As a parent, we want to trust our children but we know trust is earned and there may be times your child breaks your trust. It's important to teach them how to rebuild it and why it's critical to be honest and trustworthy.
We can model trust best by being trustworthy to our children. This goes across the board: do what you say you're going to do, even when it comes to discipline. Empty threats teach our children not to trust our word.
Creating a safe place to make mistakes also builds trust. I didn't understand the importance of this way of thinking until later in my parenting experience. It's important to recognize our children will make mistakes. How we respond to those will build up trust with our children, or build up fear.
Love always trusts.
- Practice Hope.
Offering our children hope (and often) is a great way to bring trust to a new level. This is where we can really model the Gospel of Jesus through our mistakes, big or small. This is a place of teaching the hope of Christ -- and that we can trust Him.
How can we practice hope? By living in the hope we have in Jesus, we reject shame and condemnation on ourselves and do not project that onto our children.
When our children hit a wall or are struggling with an issue, we choose to have and show hope through Jesus that He will carry them.
Love always hopes.
- Practice Perseverance.
When we think of perseverance, we often think of long term striving, but fail to realize it's in the everyday where perseverance happens and that's where it becomes long-term.
It's when we grow emotionally weary on Monday that we need to keep pushing. It's when a child is struggling to understand long division we need to be dedicated to seeing them through. It's when we're frustrated with handling discipline issues we need to press on.
As we persevere, our children will also learn to be diligent.
Perseverance is meant for those times we feel like giving up -- and it starts with the little things. It's being steadfast, even while mentally we want to run away. If we were to give into that mental fleeing on a consistent basis, it would be disastrous for us and our children.
Love always perseveres.
The beautiful thing about loving our children is we don't have to rely on our own strength to love better. Jesus is the perfect model and He sent the Holy Spirit to help us, be our teacher, and live within us to empower us.
There is always room to love better and I don't ever want to become complacent when it comes to learning to love others well.
To get a fully biblical perspective on this love, I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 13.