Language of Love
Children desperately need to know - and to hear in ways they understand and remember - that they’
re loved and valued by Mom and Dad. How can you share words that protect and provide for them?
How can you better understand them and have them understand you? Leave a legacy of love for your
children with emotional word pictures.
1. Children need security in words and actions.
2. Children need instruction and friendship.
In a home where a parent and child can’t be friends, teens will listen to their peer group. Try learning
their language. Try speaking the language of love. (The music they listen to does.)
3. Children need the love that meaningful touch can bring.
Touch is the first way babies know they are loved. They clearly read the nonverbal language of love
expressed through meaningful touch. Even when teenagers cringe from your hugs, they still need it.
You may have to get a little creative (try wrestling on the carpet.) You build love and value in a child
when you are not afraid or don’t neglect to touch your children in meaningful ways.
4. Children need times of emotional bonding.
Researchers point out that for adults and teens, the best way to change someone is through a
significant emotional event.
Sample Word Pictures
A. I feel like a nesting hawk, carefully feeding and protecting my children. With a keen eye and fine-
tuned senses, I gather food and watch carefully for predators who seek to get at them. Tiring at
times? Sure. Yet, I’ve never felt more important and useful. I cherish the demands of guarding and
B. My family is like a soft, overstuffed recliner, complete with every option and extra the manufacturer
has ever made. Their words are warm and soothing like a heating element; their hugs like massages
that ease the aches and pains of life. With them around I can tip way back but never fall to the
ground. After spending time in my recliner, I’ve got the rest and loving support to keep going. My
family is like a soft cushion of love.
C. For years when my son was young, my life was like spending a wonderful time in the quiet waters of
a nearby beach. But lately, I feel like there has been a storm that caused the waves to pound the
sand with boiling anger. I’ve been desperately searching for gentle swells and a safe place to swim.
But if I’m not careful, no matter what subject I share with him or what I say, I get smashed by the waves
and dragged out to sea. I’m so confused. I wish the storm would go away and we could get back to the
quiet waters of friendship and respect we once had.
D. Returning home to you from a trip is like taking a quiet drive in the country after having driven a
taxi in New York City for a week. No one is cutting me off or yelling at me. There are no red lights to
frustrate me nor any crummy drivers to swerve into my path. Coming home is like driving on a country
road where people actually wave because they like me and are glad to see me, not because they’re
"Like the finest apple trees in the land, may all your relationships grow and prosper and bring forth
much good fruit. May you stay planted beside life-giving springs of water, and may your blossoms
bring forth a fragrance of love and encouragement to others. May God shelter you from storms and
keep you forever in His sunlight."
Findings from a Harvard University Preschool Project:
A. Human competence is developed more in the period of development between 8 and 18 months of
age. The child’s experiences during these brief months do more to influence future intellectual ability
than any other time before or after.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
B. His mother is the most important environmental factor in his life. She carries more influence than
any other person or circumstance on her child’s experiences.
C. The amount of language directed "to" a child (not TV, radio or over-heard conversations) is vital
to his development of fundamental language, intellectual and social skills. Researchers have
concluded that providing a rich social life for a 12-15 month old child is the best thing you can do to
guarantee a good mind.
D. Children who are given free access to living areas of their homes progressed much faster than
those whose movements are restricted.
E. The immediate family is the most important educational system. If we are going to produce capable,
healthy children, it will be by strengthening family units and by improving the interactions that occur
F. The best parents were those who excelled at 3 functions:
1. They were superb designers and organizers of their children’s environments.
2. They permitted their children to interrupt them for 30-second episodes for personal consultation,
comfort, information, and enthusiasm
3. They were firm disciplinarians while still showing great affection for their children.
Children want to know where the boundaries are and if you are going to enforce them. Dare to
discipline if you want to raise healthy respectful children. Children must be taught self-discipline and
responsible behavior. They need to learn how to face the challenges and obligations of living. They
need to learn the art of self-control and be equipped to meet the demands placed on them by their
school, peer group, and later, adult responsibilities.
If your family ship is difficult to steer and about to be dashed to pieces on the rocks, the ship has no
captain! It is drifting aimlessly in the absence of a leader - a decision maker - an authority - who
could guide it to safer waters. Don’t abdicate your responsibilities to provide leadership in your
Children thrive best in an atmosphere of genuine love undergirded by reasonable consistent
When properly applied, discipline works! It allows affection and mutual respect between a parent
and child. It bridges the generation gap. It allows us to introduce God to our children. It permits a
teacher to do the kind of job in the classroom for which she is commissioned. It encourages a child to
respect his fellow-man and to live as a responsible, constructive citizen. There is a big price tag for
these benefits: they require courage, consistency, conviction, diligence, and enthusiastic effort.
There is a critical period during the first 4 or 5 years of a child’s life when he can be taught proper
attitudes. Early concepts become rather permanent. Teach your children to be kind, appreciative and
pleasant, don’t just hope for it. If you want to see honesty, truthfulness, and unselfishness in your
children, make these characteristics your conscious objectives every day. Heredity does not equip a
child with proper attitudes; children will learn what they are "taught".
Children 5 - 10 should be involved in adventure books, Disney-type productions, family activities like
camping, fishing, sporting events, and games. Regulate the television. It is an enemy of
communication within the family.
Ideally, the foundation has been laid during the first 9 years of a child’s life. Every year that passes
should bring fewer rules, less direct discipline, and more independence for the child. He also should
be carrying more responsibility each year of his life. The overall objective during the 9 - 12 year old
stage is that each of his actions have consequences. Irresponsible behavior produces sorrow and
pain. Allow your child to experience a reasonable amount of pain when he behaves irresponsibly.
Respectful and responsible children result from families where the proper combination of love and
discipline is present. Both must be applied in large quantities. An absence of either is disastrous.
Don't be cold and unapproachable. Surround your child with affection. Treat him with respect and
dignity, and expect the same from him. Enjoy the sweet benefits of competent parenthood.
Don’t judge your children too soon. Be patient and give him time to mature. Work gently on the traits
that concern you the most, but allow him the privilege of being a child. (He will be one for a brief
Postpone the adolescent experience until it is summoned by the happy hormones. While we cannot
isolate our small children from the world as it is, we don’t have to turn our babies into teenyboppers.
Avoid over-protectiveness and dependency. This causes your child to fall behind his normal timetable
in preparation for ultimate release as a young adult. At the end of his childhood, he will be expected
to spend money wisely, hold down a job, obey the law, be a good citizen, and support the needs of a
family. Self-discipline should be taking place.
Is this time of life more difficult for the youngster or for the other members of the family? (ha)
This generation of children has had more pleasure and entertainment, better food, more leisure time,
better education, better medicine, more material goods, and more opportunities than has ever been
known before. Yet they have been described as the "angry generation." When we look back over the
last generation, the turmoil can be found in the tender years of childhood: neither respect nor
responsible behavior was demanded from children and now these young adults are demonstrating the
absence of these virtues.
A knowledgeable parent should schedule a weekend trip with each child individually when he is 10
or 11 (where they will not be disturbed) to explain the adolescent experience. The parent should
discuss the changes that will be occurring in the body, tension that is likely to develop between
generations, and new demands that will be placed on him socially, and rapidly approaching changes
that are part of growing up and becoming independent. They should discuss the spiritual confusion
which often occurs in adolescence and focus on occupational and career choices the child must
eventually make. Record this conversation in a diary and put it away for a few years. When he is
discouraged, distressed, rejected, lovesick, emotional and anxious, the paper should be retrieved.
Show him that these things were anticipated several years ago and that it is all part of the transition
from childhood to manhood. Tell him that as surely as these upsetting events were accurately
produced, their end can also be forecast with certainty. If these trials can be viewed as a temporary
phase through which everyone must pass, then it is more tolerable.
There is nothing more risky than sending a teenager into the storms of adolescence with no skills or
unique knowledge. His only source of self-esteem comes from the acceptance of other teens, and
their love is notoriously fickle.
Lack of friendship, lack of feelings of acceptance, and lack of wholesome social life represent serious
problems for high-school and college students at all levels. Some studies have shown that 50% of the
entire student body has no meaningful social life either inside or outside of school. Inability to gain
social acceptance is not merely an uncomfortable feeling , it can actually cause some to want to stop
living. Recognize the early symptoms of personal despair during the tender, pliable years of
childhood, and do something about it.
Adolescence is an age of inferiority. Defuse the self-worth crisis before it arrives, showing that it is
universal and temporary. Remind him that it is part of the process of growing up and doesn’t really
have much to do with genuine self-worth.
Adolescence is an age of conformity. Suddenly they are embarrassed to be with their parents in
public. This is natural. It is important for our pre-teenager to know about group pressure before it
reaches its peak. Prepare him to have the courage to stand alone in a crucial moment of peer
Adolescence is an age of confusion. A small child is told what to think during his formative years. He
is subjected to all the attitudes, biases, and beliefs of his parents, which is right and proper. Then, in
adolescence, all of these concepts and ideas are examined and either adopted as true or rejected as
false. They question if there really is a God, and if so, does He know me? "Do I believe in the values
of my parents? Do I want that for my life?" For several years self-examination is conducted. It is hard
to sit on the sidelines and watch your child scrutinize the values to which your life has been dedicated.
Adolescence is an age of identity formation. The child with a good sense of identity is acquainted with
his own goals, strengths, weaknesses, desires, hopes, and dreams. A child who has been given a
meaningful self-awareness by his parents and teachers knows where he’s going and how he expects
to get there. It is our jobs as parents to provide our child with a healthy identity during the formative
years in the home.
Adolescence is an age of fluctuating emotions and personality changes. One day a 15 year old is a
man and the next day he is a child. If each family member is taught to recognize the fluctuating
personality pattern as "normal" they might find it easier to live with an emotional, excitable,
impressionable, erratic, idealistic, flighty, daydreaming romanticist known as an adolescent.
Adolescence is an age of sexual fascination and fear. Make a final presentation that will represent a
review of the matters you have discussed before. He will probably be resentful and embarrassed by
the same conversation three years later. After a child undergoes emotional, hormonal, and physical
changes of puberty, your job as his primary sex educator will probably be a thing of the past. This
vital discussion is much too important to attempt without planning and forethought. (There is often a
very important link between irresponsible sexual activity and low self-esteem. This makes it more
urgent that you teach proper attitudes and behavior regarding the opposite sex. Those with the
greatest sense of inferiority are often the most vulnerable to sexual exploitation.)
Adolescence is an age of increasing independence.
Parents need to be willing to change because the period of time between the ages of 12 and 20
represents nothing but change. How we need wisdom! Wisdom makes parents more patient and
tolerant with a rash teenager who is struggling to find his way. Wisdom keeps our mouths shut when
an argument is on the way. It helps us know when it is time to act or talk, listen or affirm, confront or
embrace. Ask God for the wisdom you need to respond as you should - or to back off and let Him
Grandparents, you have something that busy dads and moms seldom have - time. Take time for your
grandchildren. They need it. Time to listen. Time to affirm, to caution, to love. Time to counsel.
Parents, don’t slough off our responsibility! Every time we do, our kids resent it. Helpful, important
things can be provided by a caring church family, but never doubt it - it’s what happens in the home
that has the greater impact. Listen, deal with wrong, communicate, feel, hear the unspoken messages,
realize the struggle, stand for truth, be available, hold firm to integrity, talk, and solve conflicts. Don’t
sit passively by and hope the troubles will somehow fly away. Encourage your teen to "make up his
mind" like Daniel did, to serve God. Others will see the difference.
Give your adolescent room to make up his mind. Your counsel is valuable. Your support is valuable.
But one day you must let go. Personal convictions stand the test much better than forced convictions.
Dobson’s favorite advice for parents of teens: "Just get ‘em through it. You’ll both survive and it will
be over some day."
Joel’s (our son) advice: "Have family devotions and prayer whether the kids want it or not."
THE STRONG-WILLED ADOLESCENT
1. A teenager is often desperately in need of respect and dignity. Give him these gifts!
(They will tolerate all sorts of rules and restrictions, provided you don’t assault their egos. If you make
them feel childish and foolish, brace yourself for hostility.)
2. Verbalize conflicts and re-establish the boundaries.
3. Link behavior with desirable and undesirable consequences.
4. Prepare yourself and teenager for adolescence.
5. Hold on with an open hand.
Adolescence is an Age of Dramatic Physical Change
A. Rapid growth will occur, sapping energy and strength for awhile. (The teenager will actually need
more sleep and better nutrition than when he was younger.)
B. Explain to them how their body will quickly change to that of an adult.
C. Share full details of the menstrual cycle to your daughter before her first period. Convey
confidence, optimism, and excitement regarding this time in life.
D. Discuss the timing of puberty with your children. Development may occur as early as 12 or as late
as 19 in boys and from 10 to 17 in girls. It may arrive 7 years earlier in some children than in others.
Some are upset until they understand this.
Advice for Moms
Children are terribly dependent on their parents and the task of meeting their needs is a full-time job,
1. Reserve some time for yourself.
2. Don’t struggle with things you cannot change.
3. Don’t deal with any big problems late at night.
4. Get in the habit of using a to-do list.
5. Seek divine assistance.
Loving God in the way He should be loved is the secret of having Christ in the home. The home that is
founded on a sincere love for God gives the liberty to love each other selflessly as God intended.
"This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have love you." (John 15:12).
The secret to discipline in the Christian home lies in establishing the divine order of relationships
(Eph. 5:21, 24; 6:1). When parents are submissive to God’s authority in personal and family living,
they set the example of disciplined living for their young. Actually, parents can expect no more
obedience from their children than they themselves demonstrate to the laws of God. When there is a
breakdown of cooperation in the Christian home, parents would do well to check their relationship with
God to see if obedience is really the key of their own lives. Fulfilling the commandment to honor and
obey parents requires that the parents live lives of honor and obedience. (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20).
"Spare the rod and spoil the child." A study of the use of the word "rod" in the Old Testament is
helpful. (1) The first use of "rod" is the scepter of authority, used to symbolize the position of the
father as head of the clan. In this sense, the "rod" is the God-given leadership role the father has in
the Christian home. It is his privilege and responsibility to establish a code of honor that marks the
value system of the home, proclaiming that Christ is Lord of all. (2) The second use of "rod" is the
counting stick used to separate the sheep to make sure each one was accounted for. Accountability is
a vital use of the "rod" in the Christian family. It implies knowing where the children are and being
interested in their comings and goings. (3) The third "rod" was used as a weapon on the lion and bear
that attacked the flock. Note, the "rod" was not intended for use against the sheep - only those forces
that would attack the sheep. Solomon did allow, however, when a child begins to act more like the lion,
the bear, or the devil, instead of the sheep, the "rod" could be applied in chastisement as a deterrent
from further deterioration toward rebellion. The hope is that the child will see the error of his ways and
correct his conduct. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" (I Sam. 15:22-23).
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to
SHAPING THE WILL
1. Define the boundaries before they are enforced.
2. When defiantly challenged, respond immediately with confidence.
3. Distinguish between willful defiance and childish irresponsibility.
Punish defiance; never punish childish irresponsibility. (I.e. spilled milk)
4. Reassure and teach after the confrontation is over.
5. Don’t make impossible demands of your child.
6. Let love be your guide.
DON’T BREAK THE SPIRIT, but mold the will and shape it. The spirit of a child is a million times more
vulnerable than his will. The spirit relates to the self-esteem or the personal worth that a child feels. It
is the most fragile characteristic in human nature, being particularly vulnerable to rejection and
ridicule and failure. How do you shape the will while preserving the spirit? Answer: Establish
reasonable boundaries and enforce them with love.
Avoid any implication that the child is unwanted, unnecessary, foolish, ugly, dumb, a burden, an
embarrassment, or a disastrous mistake. With accusations, the child’s self-esteem moves down
another notch. Personal assaults don’t make him sweeter and more cooperative, but meaner and
more bitter and more convinced of his own worthlessness. This crushes the spirit, but his will
continues to rage. He can become the kind of individual, who as he grows older, turns his self-hatred
on innocent victims.
Help The Child With Emotional or Physical Handicaps to Compensate
A child’s view of himself is a product of 2 important influences:
1. The quality of his home life.
2. His social experiences outside the family.
The human personality grows through mild adversity. The ideal environment for your child is to have
problems and trials. We all profit from confronting the problems they face. Those who learn to
conquer their problems are more secure than those who have never faced them. Be your children’s
ally. Encourage them when they are distressed, intervene when the threats are overwhelming. Give
them the tools to overcome the obstacles! It is our job as parents to help our children find their
strengths. Inferiority can paralyze an individual or provide tremendous energy to succeed and achieve.
STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM
It is very easy to convey love and disrespect at the same time. A child can know that you would
actually give your life for him, if required, and yet your doubts about his acceptability show through.
You are tense and nervous when he starts to speak to guests or outsiders. You butt in to explain what
he was trying to say or laugh nervously when his remarks sound foolish. When someone asks him a
direct question, you interrupt and answer for him. You reveal your frustration when you are trying to
comb his hair or "make him look nice" for an important event. (He knows you think it is an impossible
assignment.) If he is to spend a weekend away from the family you give him an extended lecture on
how to avoid making a fool of himself. These are signals to the child that you don’t trust him with your
image. He reads disrespect in your manner and believes confidence and admiration are for others
outside the family.
Loving your child is only half of the task of building self-esteem. Respect must be added if you are to
counter-balance the insults society will throw at him. Four barriers which cause your child to doubt his
1. Parental insensitivity. Guard what you say in the presence of your children. Be sensitive to matters
pertaining to physical attractiveness and intelligence. (Small injuries grow up to be large wounds.)
2. Fatigue and time pressures. Routine panic is becoming an American way of life. Children don’t fit
into a "to do" list very well. It takes time to introduce them to good books - fly kites and put together
jigsaw puzzles. These are the building blocks of esteem, held together with the mortar of love. (Your
children will be gone so quickly and you will have nothing but blurred memories of those years when
they needed you.)
3. Guilt. Remember, none of us are perfect parents. We get tired, frustrated, disappointed and
irritable. We are permitted to make mistakes through the years, provided the overall tone is
somewhere near the right note.
4. Rivals for love.
Enhancing a child’s esteem is pretty much a family matter. If it doesn’t happen there, it’s doubtful it will
happen anywhere. Your child’s judgment of himself influences the kinds of friends he chooses, how
he gets along with others, the kind of person he marries, and how productive he will be. It affects his
creativity, integrity, stability, and even whether he will be a leader or a follower. His feelings of self-
worth form the core of his personality and determine the use he makes of his aptitudes and abilities.
His attitude toward himself has a direct bearing on how he lives all parts of his life. In fact, self-esteem
is the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being.
The importance of self-esteem in your child’s life can hardly be overemphasized. It is next to the
contribution you can make: helping him cultivate a meaningful, lasting relationship with God. If your
child is launched from your nest secure in Christ and confident he has been designed by God to fulfill
a special calling, equipped with the tools to handle the demands of everyday life, you’ve done your
People who reach adulthood with a good self-image have the ability to draw out from within
themselves the things that are worthwhile, to focus clearly on them. Such individuals are secure,
resourceful, and competent to handle what life throws at them.
When you have a wholesome, confident self-esteem, you’re able to love. You’re able to give yourself.
You’re able to pull out what is best in the other person, including your children. You’re able to focus
on what is best for them, to bring it out, instead of nagging or harassing them. A sense of security is
passed on to our young. Verbalize your approval, confidence, your trust. Year after year, in different
ways, convey affirmation. Inner strength will start emerging. Promote a joyful faith. Don’t frown and
demand, looking more like undertakers than joyful children of the living God. Cultivate laughter in your
TEACHING RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY TO CHILDREN
1. Developing respect for parents is a critical factor in child management.
The child’s relationship with his parents provides the basis for his attitude toward all other people. It’s
not for the purpose of satisfying the parent’s egos. This becomes the cornerstone of his later outlook
on school authority, police and law, the people with whom he will eventually live and work, and for
society in general.
If you want your child to accept your values when he reaches his teen years, then you must be worthy
respect during his younger days. When a parent loses the early confrontations with the child, the later
conflicts become harder to win. The parent who never wins, who is too weak or too tired or too busy to
win, is making a costly mistake that will come back to haunt him during the child’s adolescence. The
proper time to begin disarming the teen-age time-bomb is "twelve years" before it arrives. The conflict
between generations occurs because of a breakdown in mutual respect, and it bears many painful
It is the ultimate paradox of childhood that a youngster wants to be controlled, but he insists that his
parents earn the right to control him. Acts of childish irresponsibility should be handled as such.
Spankings should be reserved for the moment a child (age 10 or less) expresses a defiant "I will not!"
or "You shut up" attitude. A child’s antagonism may come from frustration, disappointment, or
rejection, and must be interpreted as a warning signal to be heeded. A child’s resistant behavior
always contains a message to his parents which they must determine before responding. If the
question is "Are you in charge or am I?" a forceful reply is appropriate (as a discouragement to his
future attempts to overthrow the government in the home.)
The most successful parents are those who have the skill to get behind the eyes of the child, seeing
what he sees, thinking what he thinks, feeling what he feels.
Discipline is not something he does to the child; it is something he does for the child. The parent’s
should be "I love you too much to let you behave like that."
BE GENTLE WITH THE EGO. NEVER BELITTLE OR EMBARRASS HIM IN FRONT OF FRIENDS.
Punishment should usually be administered away from the curious eyes of onlookers. The child
should not be laughed at. He should feel that his parents "really do care". SELF-ESTEEM IS THE
MOST FRAGILE ATTRIBUTE IN HUMAN NATURE.
2. The best opportunity to communicate often occurs after punishment.
3. Control without nagging (It is possible.)
Yelling and nagging at children can become a habit, and an ineffective one at that! Parents often use
"anger" to get action, instead of using "action" to get action. If the only messages he responds to are
those reaching a peak of emotion, there is much screaming and yelling going on and Mom’s nerves
are frayed. Usually she has to resort to physical discipline in the end, anyway. There was no reason
for a fight to have occurred. The situation could have ended very differently if the parent’s attitude
had been one of confident serenity, speaking softly, warning, and then following through. This in turn
involves the least pain and hostility between parent and child.
4. Don’t saturate the child with excessive materialism.
5. Avoid extremes in control and love.
6. Find your solutions to your parenting problems through the Word of God and prayer.
I Timothy 3:4-5 Proverbs 23:13-14
Hebrews 12:5-9, 11 Proverbs 13:24
Ephesians 6:1-4 Proverbs 29:15
Proverbs 22:15 Proverbs 29:17
Self-control, human kindness, respect, and peacefulness can again be manifested if we will dare to
discipline in our homes and schools.