Powerful Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them
The other day, my husband told my 3-year-old son to say “I love you” to mommy before going to sleep. My son ran up to me, stared at me with his giant, innocent eyes, and blurted out “I like you!” in Chinese (I speak only Mandarin to my children). I laughed and teased him, “You don’t just ‘like’ mommy, you LOVE mommy! How do you say ‘I love you’?” My son furrowed his eyebrows and started fidgeting uncomfortably, shifting his weight from one foot to another. This was when I realized that my son did not know how to say “I love you” in Chinese…because I, his dearest, caring mother, didn’t tell him that I love him enough.
Before you doom me to the 9 circles of Hell, allow me to explain. Growing up in a Chinese culture, “I love you” is an expression seldom spoken. Ok, make that NEVER spoken. My parents have never said it to me, and they have never said it to each other. Instead of using the expression to convey affection, Chinese people use actions to show their children how much they care. For example, my father would save me the eyes and cheeks of the fish (the best parts!) for dinner, or he would actually let the children eat first to make sure that we eat all the food we favored, and he would finish off the rest. My mother would always make sure there was ample food at all times (Chinese people are big on feeding people, as you can see), and will fly across the country anytime I need her. Still skeptical? You can read more about why Chinese parents don’t say “I love you” here.
That said, I do live in America. I do have a French husband who is the extreme opposite when it comes to the languages of love. He is constantly praising and encouraging me and the kids, and he showers us with words of affection. I hear my son telling his dad “Je t’aime” all the time because well, his dad says it to him all the time. While I believe that actions do speak louder than words, I also believe expressing love verbally is as important in establishing emotional stability and confidence in my children.
So, as a New Year’s resolutions, forget losing weight or spend less money. Forget taking more real showers (jumping in the shower and getting wet for two seconds do not count) and looking a little “glam” (meaning, actually brushing my hair and brushing my teeth before joining the rest of civilization). I am going to concentrate on one thing and one thing only – to be a better mother. Saying “I love you” more to my children is definitely part of it, but I believe that I definitely can use some improvements in other aspects of being a good mother. Therefore, I resolve to:
Watch them with 100% attention.
Especially as a blogger, social media is a huge distraction. It’s difficult not to glance at the phone when you see someone comment on your post or tags you on Instagram. Moreover, with a list of things-to-do and activities scheduled, my mind is constantly jumping from one agenda to another. Recently, my son has been saying more, “Mommy, watch me!” and he looks over his shoulder to make sure that I am watching. I will admit that more than once, I have been caught not actually paying attention and he has to remind me to watch him again. I resolve to put down my phone and clear my mind when I am with my kids and watch them with 100% attention. And even when I want to take pictures, which I do all the time, at least once a day I will put away the camera and just enjoy the moment itself.
Play with nature.
I hate nature. I want to just stay inside in a nice, temperature controlled environment with no bugs and dirt to worry about. However, kids love being outside and they learn so much just from playing in the park or exploring nature. I resolve to pick up worms or snails even when I am grossed out so that my kids have a chance to learn about the creatures, and spend more time outdoors with my children.
Let them get messy.
On top of house chores, the last thing we want to do is allow more situations in which we need to spend time scrubbing the walls or vacuuming the carpet. However, children love to get messy. And for them to learn, they HAVE TO get messy. So, show them how much you care by just letting them go and do what they want, even if it means you washing shaving cream off the dog later.
Let them help you.
Argh, I know, I am totally a Type A mom and want to control everything. When they spray water on the carpet instead of the table or drop food on the floor, the vein in my temple threatens to pop. However, our children love to help out and you can see how proud they are to be able to assist mommy. So, give them simple tasks to do to help out around the house, like wiping the tables or the windows, or let them give you a hand in baking by stirring the ingredients together. The stronger bond established between you and your kid will be worth all the headaches of cleaning up later.
Actively listen to them.
There is a difference between listening to your children babble and then just smile and nod versus ACTIVELY listening to your kids. What’s the difference? When you are actively listening to someone, you hear not only the words, but the complete message. Listen not only to what comes out of their mouths, but also what are the underline emotions and feelings. For example, yesterday my son smacked my daughter on the head and my immediate reaction was to chastise him. He kept telling me that Zoe knocked over the animal figurines in between his sobs. Then I forced myself to calm down and put myself in his shoes and asked him, “are you upset because you took a lot of time putting the figurines in a row and your sister knocked them over?” He stopped crying and you can see in his eyes that he appreciated mommy seeing his side of the story instead of just hearing “the animals got knocked over” and saying “what’s the big deal?”
Laugh at their silliness.
If you have a boy, you probably learned by now that anything involving bodily gas is hilarious. Oh, and the word “poop” somehow induces uncontrollable laughter. My daughter finds putting random things on my head amusing, and I swear she can keep doing it forever. Kids are silly, and we are way too serious as adults. Give in to their silliness and just laugh with them. What’s the quote? Laughter is the best medicine?
Kids love music, and they love to move to the beat. But who has the energy after a long day to pump up the music? Think about it this way…the more they move, the more tired they get, and the earlier and easier they go to bed. Motivated now? Get off your butt and party like it’s 1999! I guarantee you that no matter how bad your dance moves are, your children will be on top of the world that their mommy joined them in a dance party!
Snuggle with them.
I feel like I am constantly running away from my children because there are tons of things to do! Especially when they are young and still wants to snuggle with mommy, I need to relax and just snuggle with them when they let me…which is not often because they are constantly on the move! And before we know it, they will be grown up and be all like “Ew mom, why are you touching me” when you try to snuggle. *eye roll*
Children loves books. My son can sit for hours reading books, and you can tell that his whole world transforms into the fantasy world in the book whenever we read. And when you read with your children, you are 100% focused on just the book and them, and everything else melts away. Don’t forget to snuggle while reading together!
Give in to the craziness.
My kids love daddy – mommy is practically invisible when daddy is home. A lot of it has to do with daddy is super fun and plays with them as if he is a kid himself. He lets them ride on him like a horse, lets them stand on his shoulders, and lets them crawl all over him and wrestle with them on the floor. I am much more uptight and often find myself tidying up after them instead of letting loose and jumping into the craziness. I am done with being the Debbie Downer! Time to reach deep inside me and bring out my inner kid!
Discipline with affection.
Especially when your kids are going through the tantrum phase, it’s so difficult to control your emotions and discipline them without blowing up. Whether you decide to discipline with time-outs, time-ins, or just stern words, make sure to hug them afterward and tell them how much you love them despite what they did.
Support them when they fail.
The first part of this is to LET your children fail. They need to fail to learn. However, when they do, be there for them, and support them with kind words and hugs. Give them assurance that bad things do happen from time to time, but as long as they tried their best, then that’s all they can do. But no matter what happens, mommy will be there with open arms and a big, warm smile.
Tell them “I love you” as often as possible.
Circling back to this “I love you” phrase. You may be the type of mommy who is constantly calling your children “darling” or “sweetie pie” or other terms of endearments and showering them with tons of “I love you” every day, and this one is just a no-brainer. For me, even saying “I love you” in Chinese sounds funny and awkward, so often I default to “mommy loves you” to make it less direct and strong. But my kids need to hear “I love you” from mommy because I do love them with all my heart and there is no reason why I shouldn’t tell them more. So, in 2018, I say screw the deep-rooted Chinese culture in me and I vow to say “I love you” to my children whenever, wherever, until I say it so often that it is no longer an uncomfortable phrase to express but something that will just roll off my tongue.
Adulting is exhausting. Between washing dishes and folding laundry, remember to slow down and enjoy just being with your children, no matter what they are doing at the time. They don’t need you to take them to theme parks or fly across the world to know that you love them; they just need simple things like kisses, hugs, and cuddles from mommy and daddy to feel treasured and loved. Oh…and of course hearing “I love you!”
What other ways do you show your children you love them?