ABOUT THE SERIES: This summer, I’m working on developing my kids’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each week, we’re focusing on a specific characteristic. Through this series, I’m giving you the books, discussion questions and action plans we’re using. This week: Teaching Love
Growing up, my parents and I had a complicated relationship. They were and are genuinely good people, but they let their personal struggles keep them from being good parents for large chunks of my childhood.
Asked one time as a college student if I thought they loved me, I hesitated and answered, “Probably. I truly don’t know.”
I know now that they always have. But I’m absolutely determined that my kids will never feel that uncertainty. No matter what else I mess up, my kids will always, always, always, always know that I love them.
This week’s character lesson then — love — isn’t just huge for me. It’s everything. Because really, love encompasses all things good.
The Bible famously defines love as this, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
That’s a tall order. But, dear mamas, we’re up to the challenge.
A note on teaching love: I once heard author Gary Chapman say that the most-successful adults are fluent in all five love languages.
So, rather than trying to focus on my kids’ love-language preferences, I try to actively love them, every day, using all five “languages”: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch.
Often, I combine them. So, for example, while reading the first book listed below, “I Love You Through And Through,” I would read that to my kids (quality time), while giving them kisses for each body part named in the book — toes, fingers, etc. (physical touch) and then finishing the book by telling my kids what I love about them specifically (words of affirmation).
Trust me: You can’t over-love your kids.
Book Selections for Teaching Love
“I Love You Through And Through” (preK-K), by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak
“Guess How Much I Love You” (preK-K), by Sam Bratney
“Love” (preK-early elementary), by Matt de la Peña
“The One And Only Ivan” (upper elementary), by Katherine Applegate
“Glimpse” (middle school-high school), by Carol Lynch Williams
“The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts” (high school-adults), by Gary Chapman
Discussion Questions for Teaching Love
How would you define or describe love?
What is the definition of love? (Look up in dictionary.)
Who loves you? Whom do you love? How do you know?
When do you feel most loved? Describe that feeling.
Are loving someone and liking someone the same thing? Can you love someone even when you’re not liking them?
Describe a time when you showed love to a friend, a sibling, a stranger. What was their reaction? How did YOU feel? What happened next?
Summarize your discussion: “So, when we show love to each other, we feel __________ and we get ______________ .”
What are ways we can show love at home? at school? in our community?
Action Plans for Teaching Love
(Here are some options in case you’re stuck. But I encourage you and your kids to pick your own. It’s more fun, and they’ll be way more engaged!)
Love letters: Every family member writes down 10 things they love about every other family member. Plan a family night in which you make dinner together (or order in), play games and read the love letters out loud.
Count the compliments: Sincerely compliment as many people as you can during this week and keep track! Talk about how people responded to your compliments.
Who can we love today?: Everyone names three people they should show love to that day. How will they show love to that person? Check in with each other at the end of the day to see what happened.