I think that love is a deep affection or attachment to something or someone. It consists of traits such as unselfishness, loyalty, devotion, tenderness, passion, and compassion. When thinking about the love that a father or a mother has for his or her child, it is easy to think about the emotions and feelings when a kid smiles or giggles. From the perspective of the child, one can see the joy in the smile, the glimmer in the eyes, and the glee in the laughter whenever mom or dad comes into the room. The love shared between a parent and child is very powerful. Parents are willing to sacrifice so many things for their child and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t give their life in exchange for their child’s.
Love between two people can also be very powerful. Building a long-term relationship can have so many positive impacts on someone’s life. Part of the fun of a long-term relationship (of any kind) is growing together through shared experiences, suffering through difficulties and heartbreaks, and experiencing the joy of mountain top encounters. Getting through the challenges of life together as a couple require us to have a long range view of love and marriage. If we don’t keep our eye on the bigger picture, we will get distracted by all the small inconsequential and inconvenient problems that crop up in life. These distract us from the larger vision of what is important.
Love is a powerful emotion that binds a parent to a child and one adult to another. Teaching a child how to love is one of the most important lessons a parent can teach. Here are four things to help teach your children about the value of love:
1. Love is Forgiveness. Falling in love is easy. But staying in love takes work and intentionality. A big part of that is being able to forgive—on nearly a daily basis. Any kind of loving relationship requires continual forgiveness from both parties in order to work. We can teach our kids this valuable lesson by being willing to apologize and ask for their forgiveness whenever we make a mistake or do wrong.
2. Love is not about sex. When we first meet someone we are attracted to, large amounts of hormones automatically start coursing through our body. We feel a rush of excitement for that someone and these hormones create a drug-like “high” that regulates lust, attraction, and bonding. Unfortunately, the high levels of these chemicals eventually go back to normal and we lose that “high” around our partner. Even though many believe that love and sex are synonymous, that immediate “high” fades and often what is left is love. We long for that person’s voice, smile, and touch and our sex drive becomes less urgent. We can see from this that if we used sex as the yardstick to determine whether we were in love or not, we would be falling in and out of love every 18 months or so.
3. Love is action not emotion. Love is an action, a verb, not an emotion. We choose to love someone and we choose to take the actions that keep that love alive. We choose to invest in our relationship or choose to let it die. Love is more about what we do than how we feel. Frankly, sometimes I don’t feel like doing loving things for my wife (and I’m sure she feels the same about me). But surprisingly, when I force myself to do those things, I always feel more love for her. She in turn feels more love for me because I have acted lovingly toward her. It’s an interesting cycle, in that our disciplined thoughts lead to actions, our actions then lead to feelings. Your kids need to be made aware that while our culture promotes the romantic notion of love being all about feelings and passion (that our feelings dictate our actions), that’s not a realistic portrayal of love. It’s a vision doomed to fail. Emotions change all the time. Not “feeling” in love for a short period of time is normal and no reason to end the relationship you’ve invested in only to start over with someone else.
4. Love stays. Your children don’t care about what you do for a living or how much money you make. They do care greatly about whether you will stay in their lives or not. Research shows that children without fathers involved in their lives fare significantly worse in virtually every area of life than kids do with dad in their home. Even if you have made many mistakes, it’s never too late. Your children just want to know you love them enough to spend time with them. Love perseveres.
Rick Johnson is a sought-after speaker and bestselling author of 11 books on parenting and marriage. He is also the founder and director of Better Dads Ministries.
Learn more ways to teach childen about Love in this 2015 DadTalk Blog post.