“A father doesn’t tell you that he loves you. He shows you.“— Dimitri the Stoneheart
Personally, I’d say old Stoneheart was a bit too stone cold on this one. Kids need to hear that their parents love them. It’s not always easy to say, and it’s also easy to say too much. And anything said too often loses meaning.
But telling your child “I love you” adds a stamp of conviction that you’re there for them, and that you care for them, who and as they are. How you do this, and how often, is something you’ll have to work out on your own.
At the same time, Dimitri was on to something. Simply saying that you love someone is meaningless if you turn around and ignore them when they need you, or if you’re critical of every decision they make and every step they take. You’ve heard this before: “actions speak louder than words”, “walk the walk”, “show, don’t tell.”
So how do you show your children that you love them? Here’s a few ways:
- Look them in the eye when you’re talking to them
- Put your phone down when they’re talking to you
- Ask questions about the things they’re interested in
- Be 100% present on their birthday, all day
- Be stern and stubborn when you need to be, but soft and kind when they need you to be
- Don’t give in just because they throw a fit
- Be patient when they throw a fit
- Ask them how you can be better, then listen, and try your best to improve
- Prepare them for the future they’ll inherit, but don’t miss the present you have with them now
- Accept them for who they are, even if it doesn’t match who you thought you wanted them to be
And at least every so often, tell them “I love you”—and really mean it.