Announcing your love to your children
I can never forget the day a single mother walked into my office with her son, who was in his early twenties. The woman told me that her husband abandoned her and her five-year-old son. She said she sold her wrappers in order to train her son through primary and secondary schools. The woman (a roadside petty fruit seller) lamented that despite all her investment in the child, he does not reciprocate. In fact, she said, he is very rude and disrespectful to her.
I then told the boy to be free with me and tell me the problem he has with his mother, who has sacrificed so much for him. What came out of the boy’s mouth shocked me. He said: “my mother does not love me.” The mother was taken aback and then flew into a rage and started saying such things as: “this boy, you will kill me one day. I have laboured all my life for you. And you are saying I don’t love you? Who told you that I don’t love you?” With the boy’s head partly bowed, but at the same time trying to give me a look, he said: “didn’t I tell you my mother does not love me?” And then he went on to say; “I hope you are now seeing it for yourself?” This incidence took place about 21 years ago.
As a marriage counselor, that was my first time of handling a case of a child crying to be loved, but with the mother insisting that she loved him. At the end of the day, I succeeded in reconciling mother and child. Since then, my wife, Carol and I have handled countless number of such cases. The message we keep passing on to parents is this: no child is able to behave normally, if the child is not PROPERLY LOVED and if the child DOES NOT KNOW that he or she is loved. To many children, paying their school fees, or buying clothes and cars for them is not a sign of love. They think you are only performing your normal duty, just as your parents also did for you.
Aside sacrificing for your children, they also want you to announce your love to them on a very regular basis. Tell them and keep telling them that you love them. They want to be hundred percent sure that you love them, whether they put up bad behaviour or not. Unfortunately, many parents announce their love and admiration to their children only when they behave well and this is not God’s love quality. The King James Version of the Bible expresses this high quality of love this way: “But God commended HIS LOVE towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Rom 5:8. Parental love that is given to children, only when they behave well, is low quality love. The deepest need of a child is the need to be loved by the parents and for the child to know that he or she is fully loved. It is this knowledge that can make an unruly child return to his or her senses, just like the prodigal son.
As parents, let us keep announcing our love to our children, even when they misbehave. Love your children unconditionally. It is this high quality, unconditional love the prodigal son saw in his father, which brought him back home. However, unconditional love does not mean the surrendering of parental authority to discipline a child.
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