If Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, what specific concepts of love do we want our kids to learn? Is loving someone just about giving presents? Is lust the same as love? What happens if you lose the popularity contest in school? Are you still loved What important lessons about love can we teach our toddlers, preschoolers, and teenage children?
Here are 11 lessons about love to teach your kids this Valentine’s Day:
1. Love is Patient
I am not a love guru or exemplary in the ways I express love. In fact, patience is one of my weakest virtues.
But there is no doubt I love my kids with all my heart. Yet therein lies the problem—how much do I love myself?
When I bark at my kids to hurry them to the car or to get dressed for school, I am impatient.
When I ask my son to cut to the chase so I can quickly get back to my work, I am impatient.
When I lose my temper while supervising my son’s piano practice, I am impatient.
You can say my reactions are a result of my expectations or my situations and they do not reflect my love for my kids or the lack of it.
I know I love my children. But perhaps, sometimes, I love myself more.
Cut to the chase so I can get back to my work.
Hurry up! Why are you so slow?
What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you play this piano piece properly?
Do you see what I see?
My impatience is a result of me valuing my time more than my kids. My impatience is a reflection of disrespect and putting my kids down. Is that how love should be expressed?
When we love someone, naturally, we care for them. It also means we would want to be kind to them. It also means we should value and respect the person and, therefore, should extend more patience towards the person. “Love is patient, love is kind . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
I’m definitely working on being more patient with my kids. After all, I do love them very much. And one big way of expressing my love for them is to show them more patience.
2. Love Brings Hope
I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Love makes the world go ’round.” I believe most of us would agree with that statement, which is not to be taken literally, obviously.
Love is the driving force that sends millions of dollars in donations and aid to provide relief for victims of a natural disaster on the other side of the world.
Love is the reason countries open up their borders to provide a safe harbor for refugees fleeing war-torn zones.
Love is the motivation for activists to run campaigns and raise awareness about climate change.
Love for humanity. Love for nature. Love for wildlife. Love for our world.
Love like this brings us hope.
Such love brings comfort to those who have suffered much and are struggling to survive.
Such love brings hope to those who have lost so much and opens doors to a new lease of life.
Such love extends to generations after us and brings the hope of a better future. It is not just about what the world can do for us in our lifetime, but about how we can build a better world for our kids and theirs.
3. Love Does Not Judge
As much as we shouldn’t love someone blindly, we shouldn’t be judgmental either. We are all entitled to our opinions, our individuality, our choices, decisions, and different ways of expression.
Very often, I find myself reminding my older son to be kinder to his younger brother. The older son is certainly more apt in his writing and drawing, but that doesn’t mean he should be critical of his brother’s work.
Conflicts may arise when my older son insists his younger brother plays in a particular way. Each boy then insists his way is the right way and the brother is wrong. These conflicts or squabbles may be very minor, but they are also opportunities for us to teach our children to love and respect each other.
This means allowing the siblings to have the freedom to play the way they want, to be encouraging of each others’ work instead of being critical, and to respect each other for the decisions they make.
The truth is, sometimes, I think I am the judgmental one. I tend to jump to conclusions about what my children are about to do, and I make assumptions about their behavior before their actions even take place.
My love for my children should not be dependent on their behavior or their ability to comply with my instructions. My love should be unconditional and not judgemental.
Very often, parents tend to think we know what is best for our children. It is undeniable that most of the time, we do have the best intentions. But when we assume we know best, it is likely that we listen less, jump to conclusions more, and miss out on fully giving our children the room to make their decisions and express their individuality.
4. Love Makes You Feel Safe
Being with people we love should make us feel safe and secure. Even babies know love is equivalent to safety when they develop stranger anxiety and only calm down when placed in the caregiver’s arms.
Yet, there are some among us who are trapped in abusive relationships. Abuse may not always come in physical forms; one can also suffer from verbal and emotional abuse. Love should not come in the form of threats, physical harm, or emotional blackmail.
With this in mind, what do we want to teach our children about choosing lifelong partners? We should empower our teenage girls to know it is wrong for men to hit them even if they claim to love them. We should also assure our teenage boys that healthy relationships should not involve getting verbally abused or feeling constantly put down or being emotionally blackmailed.
Love should make you feel a great sense of security and a desire to be with someone who makes you feel valued and protected.
5. Love is Not Superficial
It is easy for our teenage children to be drawn to pretty faces or hot bods. Studies have shown that even babies are able to perceive beauty by showing preferences for faces with greater symmetry.
With the prevalent use of social media and photography apps that use filter and editing tools to make someone look prettier and slimmer, it seems that looking good is more important than ever before.
Attraction to good looks does not necessarily translate to lasting love. After all, our bodies are not immune to the effects of aging. Loving someone has to go beyond the superficial. It has to go beyond how attractive the person is or how well they are dressed or how trimmed their physique is.
One powerful way of teaching our children love is not superficial could be showing them our old photographs. Most of us have likely put on some weight through various pregnancies, have more creases around our eyes over the years, or simply cannot shed the calories like we used to once we hit the middle ages. But is the love between us and our spouses dependent on how we look?
Love cannot be superficial, and if it is, it won’t last.
If we don’t intentionally teach our kids to look beyond skin-deep beauty, we are allowing their perspectives of love and beauty to be shaped by social media, and that will never be a true reflection of reality nor be able to withstand the test of time.
6. Love Can Be Painful
This does not contradict my previous point about how love should make a person feel safe. Love should NEVER, EVER be painful as a result of abuse. Yet, when we love someone deeply, many times, we can feel hurt, too.
When our child tells a lie, trust is broken, and we feel hurt. When we care so much for each other but can’t seem to agree—in the heat of an argument, emotional words may be exchanged and feelings hurt.
When our child’s best friend has to move to another state, his heart will be broken, too. When we lose someone dear, we grieve for our loss and our heart aches like never before.
But all these don’t stop us from loving someone. It is part of a journey of growth and maturity. As parents, we do the best we can to mend these little broken hearts and help them get back on their feet.
Our love and constant support through our children’s growing-up years will help them immensely in building a strong foundation of confidence and self-assurance.
Our children will grow up capable of loving others and receiving love in respectful ways. And even when love hurts, they will be able to get on the mend and move on stronger.
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7. Love Requires Sacrifice
I am sure I don’t have to tell mommies that love involves sacrifice. We sacrifice our bodies from the day we conceived. We sacrifice our freedom, our sleep, our work, our couple time, and many other things for our children. Most of us have no regrets sacrificing all that simply because we love our children.
Most young children, especially, are used to getting what they want. Parents and grandparents dote on them and almost always give them what they ask for. Sacrifice is, therefore, a very unfamiliar concept to them.
I tried explaining to my 5-year-old that sacrificing means giving away something you like very much. I asked him if he loves his brother and he said, “Yes.” And I told him that sometimes, loving someone means we need to make some sacrifices. Like how he needs to share his toys with his brother, and how Mommy chooses to give him all the mango even though it is also Mommy’s favorite fruit.
You might think these are too insignificant to be labeled as sacrifices. But the whole idea is to help our children understand that loving someone requires giving. This giving doesn’t only take place when it’s convenient for us, but sometimes, it requires us to part with things we hold dear.
This is a very important part of growth and maturity. When we choose to place others’ needs above our own, we become less self-centered. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around us. The sooner our children learn and accept that, the better they will be able to manage to be part of a greater community.
8. Love is Respectful
There can most definitely be respect without love. Just think about respecting our bosses, war heroes, or highly successful people we wish to emulate.
Sometimes, as parents, we demand respect from our kids. When our children question us or refuse to comply with our instructions or decisions, some of us might have said, “Because I’m your mother!” This statement may have cornered our young ones and brought an end to the conversation. But I’m quite sure it doesn’t go well with our teenagers.
Respect cannot be demanded. Respect needs to be earned. Yet loving someone also involves respecting the person.
I’m sure we don’t want our children to respect us without loving us. If given a choice, I think most of us, if not all, would choose love over respect. After all, with love, comes respect, too.
Just as it is important to teach our children to respect authority, it is also essential for them to learn to respect their peers and those younger than them.
I have to admit, sometimes, I get so caught up with getting things in place that I lord my motherly authority over my children forcing them to comply. What does such an example set for my firstborn? He would naturally think he has authority over his siblings too. But we don’t want the older child to lord their authority over the younger siblings, do we? We want our younger child to also have the opportunity to lead, to voice their unique opinions, and express their individuality.
Respect cannot just happen bottom-up. We have to model to our children by showing respect to them so they can learn to respect their peers and younger siblings.
Love involves granting someone freedom and space.
Love involves respect.
9. Love Involves Honesty
With love, comes trust and, therefore, honesty. It shouldn’t be difficult for us to be honest with those we love because we feel safe when we are with them.
You are very likely to trust those you love, but this trust cannot be taken for granted. Trust needs to be built, and once broken, it takes a lot more time and effort to build it up again. When someone you love breaches your trust, it feels like a betrayal and can be very painful.
I tell my children I can understand there may be times when they misbehave, but there are two things I will not tolerate: telling lies and being rude.
The family is usually the first to teach our children what love is, and the home is usually the safest place to be. For that to happen, the family has to be built on a strong foundation of love and truth.
Many of us have immense worries about our children stepping into the teenage years. Some of us struggle with keeping the bond with our teenage children as they prefer the company of their friends more than ours and drift further away from us. Our children might not be lying to us, but closing up and building a barrier between us isn’t honesty either.
As much as possible, we need to reinforce to our children that our love for them is unconditional. Our children must not feel like they are only loved when they behave in a certain way or when they achieve certain grades. In order for our children to feel safe and know they can always trust us, our love for them has to be unconditional.
Conflicts happen, children misbehave, and discipline is required. But at the end of the day, we need to help our children understand our love for them is consistent. And that is the very reason why they can always be honest with us.
Something my older son did recently made me really, really upset. I wasn’t only angry, I was also hurt by a breach of trust. After the confrontation and discipline were over, I reconciled with my son and told him I appreciated his honesty. I needed him to know that even when telling the truth is extremely difficult and even embarrassing sometimes, it takes courage to choose to be honest.
With love, it makes it easier to be honest with each other.
10. Love Makes Waiting Worthwhile
These days, many movies and television series depict men and women falling in love quickly and jumping into bed. These shows seem to illustrate a life full of excitement that comes with the change of multiple partners within a short period of time.
Is this the kind of life we want our kids to have? Do we want our kids to view dating as a game or hopping from one relationship to another? Do we want our kids to think their bodies can be so easily shared with others?
Perhaps you think I’m outdated or narrow-minded, but I do believe that love makes waiting worthwhile. Popular practices don’t make them right. It is just a reflection of how society has changed. If some of these societal changes don’t resonate with your core values, should you simply let the waves push you along? Or should you try your best to swim against the tide?
I believe we should teach our kids the virtue of waiting. Both sons and daughters should learn to protect themselves and value their bodies. There is no shame in saying no.
With love comes respect. If the person truly loves you, then your decision should be respected, and you should have the right and freedom to say no. True love will make the waiting worthwhile. The experience that finally comes with a lifelong commitment will make it all the more sweet and precious.
11. Love is a Decision
Kids these days seem to get bored very easily. They want to be constantly entertained, they want things to happen for them quickly, and they want new stuff regularly.
The thing about choosing a lifelong partner is deciding to live with someone for the rest of your life, ’til death do you part. That’s really a very long time, isn’t it?
Let’s say you get married at 30 and live until 80; that’s half a century spent with one particular person! Many people marry earlier and many live longer than that, too. Can you imagine how boring it gets, being stuck with a person for that long?
Some people say love will fade over time. Some people say there’s no more love after marriage, it’s just two people stuck together raising their kids. What about those couples who are still loving after decades of marriage? What’s their secret?
Actually, you don’t have to be married long to know what the secret is. The secret is making the decision to love your spouse EVERY SINGLE DAY.
When you were first attracted to your spouse, your heart probably fluttered each time you saw him. You probably jumped up with excitement when you received a phone call or text message. You probably spent hours deciding what to wear to look your best when you went on a date with him.
What about now? After years of being married, knowing each other inside and out, getting used to each other’s quirks, fighting, squabbling, giving the cold shoulder . . . is there still love?
Loving your spouse is a decision to be made every day. It is a decision to love your spouse even when you are frustrated by his strange habits, even when you are worn out by your children, and even when your heart seems to feel otherwise. This love can be shown by a warm hug when he comes home from work, making his favorite cup of coffee, or seducing him when he least expects it.
It probably is much easier to simply say love has faded and not do anything at all. But the truth is, loving someone is hard work.
We cannot choose the family we are born into, but we can choose to love our family. It is very empowering for our children when we teach them to choose to love someone.
I think it is mostly innate that kids love their parents and siblings. Yet it is probably easier for kids to love their parents who care and provide for them, as compared to loving their siblings who fight with them for attention and toys. Very often, I remind my children that siblings last a lifetime. Friends may come and go and change over the years, but your siblings never go away. Even if siblings may be irritating or frustrate each other immensely, we should encourage our children to choose to love their siblings. Just as we love our kids for all their quirks and imperfections, they should also love their siblings in the same non-judgemental way.
We can always choose to love.
May we love our children unconditionally and intentionally teach our children about true love.
Looking for a gift that’s perfect for your little Valentine? The editors recommend this beautifully illustrated storybook called “Love Is” that tells the heartwarming tale of a little girl and her duckling—and might just leave you wiping away a few tears:
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