Healthy families love without condition. The root of most parent/child relationship problems is this issue right here. Kids perceive their parents’ love to be very conditional.
“My parents love me when… I do good things. …if I get good grades.” The parents’ love is probably unconditional, but the way it’s communicated is very conditional or contractual — maybe that’s a better word.
Contractual love says, “You fulfill your end of the agreement and I’ll reward you with love.” Contractual love is a lot easier than unconditional love. Contractual love gives us as parents, power. I can get you to do what I want if I withhold my love. So what happens then is that our kids become performers. Performers become people pleasers. People pleasers wind up giving up their identity, their morality, and their values in order to please other people. It’s a sick and negative cycle.
Think about how you communicate love to your kids. Is it unconditional? Contractual love is not Biblical love. Jesus gives us a model for this. John 13 “Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you’re my followers if you love each other.” Jesus said it and modeled it all throughout Scripture. The Bible is filled with descriptions on the character of God. The character of God says “I love you.” Actually it’s called covenant love. There’s your theology lesson for today. Covenant love. God made a covenant with the Israelites that said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That covenant love means that He loves them not based on their wandering in the wilderness, not based on their performance but based on His love — that same God loves us that same way.
Healthy families love without condition.
A couple of ideas. They may seem simple and I don’t mean to simplify them because they’re incredibly complex but they may sound simple.
1) Love with words. Say “I love you. I need you. You belong.” Dads, if you have daughters, they’ve got to hear that. They’ve got to hear you say you love them. If they grow up without hearing it and without feeling it, they’re going to go looking for it. I know a lot of teenage girls that are looking for love, that male affection that they haven’t got at home. Be saying it: “I love you. You’re important. You belong.”
2) Love with actions. Because love is more than just a feeling, it’s an action. We remember more of what people do than what they say: Send cards, write notes on their Facebook Wall, send text message, etc.
Y – YIELD
Healthy families yield to God. I looked up the word “yield” in a thesaurus and it came up with some other words — surrender (healthy families surrender their families to God, their marriage to God), relinquish, submit, give forth. An interesting word that I found in the thesaurus was “relax”. I kind of dismissed this at first but the more I thought about it, I thought when you do yield your family to God and you give it to God, you can relax because God loves your family more than you could ever love your family. Just yield to God and say, “We’re going to have a God centered marriage.” — not a “me” centered — a God centered marriage. And a God centered family — not a sports centered, not a school centered, a God centered family.
Passage in Deuteronomy — an Old Testament passage (this is the stiff part of your Bible) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. Always remember these commands I give you. Teach the to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road. Talk about them when you lie down and when you get up.” The job of spiritual input is the parents’ job at the dinner table, in the car, when you put them down, when they get up. Talking about God.
You may look at these six and be overwhelmed. “Where do I start?” Start with the Y — Yield your life to God, then you yield your family to God.
Have Fun – Give Attention – Make Memories – (In)courage each other – Love Unconditionally – Yield to God
Picture courtesy of Little Nora, Flickr