By Ann Elliott
We’ve all heard the saying “Tell them now.” Tell your loved ones now that you love them, because the time will come that you won’t be able to. How do you tell you child every day how much you love him or her? Does the message get lost in the reminders to pick up their room and do their homework? How can we make it come through when you are busy, when you have to correct them, when you can’t give them what they want?
I think these times when children feel our parenting as negative is your chance to say `It’s because I love you’.
At those times when they question us the most we have the choice of whether to express our decision as an absolute rule (because I say so), or as a decision from our love (because I want you to be safe).
My daughter asks me why she needs a babysitter, why she can’t stay at home by herself. After all, she says, she’s almost eleven, and she has friends that have been left alone in the house for the last three years. Now here is the opportunity. Do I say to her, `Because you’re not old enough, and that’s my decision and that’s final’ or do I say to her `Because I love you and you’re too important to me for anything to happen to you’?
Whether you’re the type of parent that can say this in a perfectly serious tone of voice, or you make it into a joke, or make it a dramatic gesture because the `gooey’ emotional feeling is just too much, you can still say it and know it’s the truth. Sometimes I say, “Because I almost died giving birth to you, and I’ve spent 10 years raising you, and spent too much money on you to loose all that investment.” Sometimes I say (clasping my hands dramatically) “My life would be so lonely without you.”
After all, isn’t this what God is saying to us when he asks for obedience: `It’s because I love you, and I want you to be safe.’ As we teach our children that we ask for obedience out of love, we teach that God’s rules for healthy living are just that: guidelines that keep your child safe and healthy, not arbitrary rules to force them to conform and ruin their fun.
If nothing else saying “I love you.” makes it harder for them to argue with you.
Ann Elliott is the author and illustrator of the Christian children’s book series GypsyBridge Friends, and the Christian parenting newsletter GypsyBridge News.