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Teaching children to love begins with parents

Teaching children to love begins with parents

"If children live with acceptance, they learn to love."

As I watched a family leave my office recently, I was reminded of a poem written many years ago by Dorothy Law Nolte, titled "Children Learn What They Live." This poem became a valuable anthem for parenting and is quoted often as a resource for raising loving children. The family I watched leave my office was experiencing distress and was not communicating or expressing themselves in a very accepting or loving manner, as is the case with so many families today. Teaching children how to love and to love well is one of the greatest challenges a parent will face. And the lessons of love always begin with the parent-child relationship. If children feel genuinely loved by their parents, they will know how to love others. They will be more responsive to parental guidance in all areas of their lives.

Children are behaviorally motivated and are most responsive to verbal expressions paired with actions. Hearing "I love you" when not connected with loving behavior leaves children feeling confused and insecure. When asking for love, children are often not subtle. They are noisy and may do things that seem inappropriate in order to gain parental approval and acceptance. It is important to realize that this is often the way children plead with their parents to spend time with them, to hold them and to give to them in a personal manner. A parent's response in these noisy, difficult times is crucial to a child's ability to grow into a loving, honest and secure adult.