Raising Godly, loving children is the goal of nearly every Christian parent. There is no greater challenge than convincing children (who are often naturally selfish creatures) to be loving, giving, and self-sacrificial—and no greater blessing as a parent than the moment when you realize that one of your children has achieved that lofty goal, even if only for a moment. With a holiday that focuses on love approaching, what better opportunity could there be to discuss love with all of your children?
The first thing you must take into consideration, of course, is your child’s age. A toddler can understand “being nice” or “doing something nice for someone.” An older child is more likely to comprehend “acts of love,” and a pre-teen or teenager is able to grasp “selfless love” at its most basic level, though they might not fully comprehend it. Start with where your child is, and don’t try to go too far with it right off the bat.
Next, consider what your child already knows. Has your child “been saved”? If they have not already decided to live a Christian life, it may be that you have to take your lesson from a slightly different perspective. Again, the age of the child will play a huge role here.
Sit down with your children all together, at least as much as possible. Tailor your lesson to the youngest child, but have information that will appeal to an older child’s greater perspective, as well. Make each of them feel as though you’re speaking specifically to them.
Feeling challenged yet?
Discuss what “love” means to your child. They may “love” their teddy bear, a favorite book or movie, or a favorite food—but they really love their family members, and they really, really love Jesus (or, at least, you hope they do). Ask them how they could show someone they love that they love them. For younger children, this may be as simple as hugging Mommy and Daddy and telling them. For older children, dig a little deeper. How can they show love to Mom and Dad? Guide them through a few things that you would really appreciate: completing their schoolwork without whining; working on their chores without complaint; a day without bickering. Discuss how these things fall in line with the Godly principles that you want them to learn: working cheerfully; giving their all; showing respect to their parents.
Next, give your kids a Valentine’s Day challenge: ask them to give each member of the family a Valentine’s gift that really shows God’s love. This might mean helping a sibling with their chores or a particularly difficult project; helping Mom or Dad without needing to be asked; or apologizing to one another for an offense in a way that really shows that they’re sorry. Discuss why these things are more important than any other gift you can give—and then model it yourself! Maybe one child needs to stay up a little bit later one night for some one-on-one time with Mom or Dad. Maybe another one really needs a special trip—not an expensive one, but just some individual time. Or maybe your kids need some help with a chore or project that you or your spouse can provide! Be creative in your ideas and consistent in your follow-through.
Talk to your kids about why you choose to show love this way: not through plastic toys that will soon be thrown away or forgotten, or through flowers that will wilt, or through things that will not matter tomorrow, but in ways that will be remembered. Talk about the difference between a gesture that is completed because it must be, and a difference that comes from the heart. Then, sit back and watch. Observe when your children make choices that will really matter later, and praise them for them—and see whether or not it makes a permanent change in their hearts.