How to show your children you love them!

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She has never heard any of her six children make a sound, but despite total deafness, she has found numerous ways to express genuine love to her family. At the wedding of one of her sons, she approached the boy with a kind of secret smile, presenting a small gift. Inside the package he found two strings neatly cut from his mother's apron. A unique way to express love that is willing to let go. Parental love is often pushy and over-protective when the real need is to stand aside.

As baby takes his first shaky steps we want to extend a helping hand and there is an impulse to cover our eyes instead of watching that first wobbly bike ride, that first pulled tooth, the first day of school, the first night away from home, the first time alone in the family car. Every milestone of development brings a new test for love. Apron strings are cut but we have to begin cutting them soon after the birth of the child.

Our mixed feelings are understandable. Love for our children causes us to be fearful for them as each new problem or challenge appears, but we know that overprotection will stifle their development. The mother bird, forcing her young from the nest appears cruel, but she does it for their own good. We demonstrate our love by preparing our children to be independent, not dependent.

There is a thin line separating "mother love" from "smother love". It is natural for us to want our children to stay close to home after they marry and most grandparents want their grandchildren nearby. But that may not be best. A move across the continent may seem cruel to parents, but may mark the beginning of new life for the young adult who needs to learn to stand upon his own feet. The move of a child to a mission point half-way around the globe will tug and tear the heart strings of parents, but their willingness to graciously make such a sacrifice will spare the missionary much pain.

Genuine family love communicates the importance of people rather than things. A young man came home one night much later than the hour his parents had set. Screeching into the driveway he found his brakes gone. Tearing through the garage door and half-way throught the back wall he knew that all hope of slipping in undetected was gone. He reluctantly made his way into the house. His father's first question was, "Son, are you hurt?" When the boy replied, "No," his father said, "That's what matters most. Go on to bed and we will talk about this in the morning." Now, many years later, his father long since deceased, the boy's eyes fill with tears with grateful remembrance as he says, "You don't know how much it meant to me to know that my father loved me more than cars and garages."

Parents who love their children want the best for them, but we easily develop a distorted understanding of what is best. We want to give them mountains of superficial things, but providing the best means above all, that we provide encouragement and guidance for character development. Real love is sometimes soft and tender. At other times it is firm and unyielding. The parent who ignores discipline because he loves the child doesn't comprehend the real meaning of love. Solomon's analysis is, "He that spareth the rod, hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24). Love for our children will resemble God's love for his. "Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6).

Confucius questioned, "Can there be a love which does not make demands on its object?" and the answer is emphatically no. Walt Whitman said, "I can never explain why I love anybody or anything". Love is difficult to explain, but it isn't difficult to detect. The loving Christian parent will accept the responsibility of the older to teach the young (Titus 2:3-5) knowing that teaching is done by both instruction and example. Hal Hubert said, "Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it".

Let's pray for strength to imitate the example of him who showed his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). If we want our children to be honest and strong instead of cheap and weak, our love must not be counterfeit. It must be the real thing.

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