When I give Christian parenting advice to young couples, one thing I consistently emphasize is the need to shower children with the gift of love.
As a backdrop, Dr. Armand Nicholi, a respected professor at the Harvard Medical School and a staff physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, affirmed that “our family experience is the most significant experience of our lives. No human interaction has greater impact on our lives than our family experience.” I think Nicholi is right.
In his presentation, Nicholi spoke of how the breakdown of the family in America contributes significantly to the major problems confronting our society. “Research data make unmistakably clear a strong relationship between broken families and the drug epidemic, the increase in out-of-wedlock pregnancies, the rise in violent crime, and the unprecedented epidemic of suicide among children and adolescents.” If we want to have healthy children, we must of necessity make the family unit a top priority.
Try as we may, though, our efforts at building a healthy family will be frustrated if we do not involve the Lord every step of the way. Scripture affirms, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). This means that our families, if they are to prosper and succeed in the way God intended, must be built upon the foundation of the Lord.
A Principle to Remember: We must follow God’s formula — and seek His involvement — for family fulfillment.
The Gift of Love
As we look to the Scriptures for wisdom on the family, it quickly becomes apparent that the greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of love (Titus 2:4). Our children, at the core of their being, need to experience, see, and hear expressed the fact that they are unconditionally loved, accepted, and appreciated. Unconditional love is loving a child no matter what. No matter what the child looks like. No matter what his assets, liabilities, and handicaps are. No matter what we expect him to be, and most difficult, no matter how he acts. This does not mean, of course, that we always like his behavior. Unconditional love means we love the child even when at times we may detest his behavior.
There are so many ways we can show love to our children. In fact, to properly cover the subject would require a book-length treatment. Here our goal is simply to highlight some of the more crucial components of loving children. Good books are available for those seeking a more detailed treatment.
To begin, our children must be shown love and acceptance in both word and action. While it is absolutely necessary to say, “I love you,” there must also be physical expressions of that love in the form of an affectionate touch. A hug, a kiss, a squeeze, and a hair tousling are all little ways of saying a whole lot.
It also says a lot to your children when you attend events that are important to them. Does your child participate in community soccer or baseball programs? If so, make every effort to attend most or all of those games. Does your child participate in gymnastics? Then by all means visit the gym and tell him or her how impressed you are. These are little ways of saying, “I love you.”
Make it a point to know and stay up on your child’s teachers, friends, current interests, fears, wishes, favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite books, favorite songs, and the like. Keeping up-to-date on this ever-changing list is another way of saying, “I love you.” It shows your child that you’re interested.
I was reading a book entitled How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell, and he emphasized that a key means of expressing love to our children is focused attention. I think he’s right. Focused attention involves giving attention to our child in such a way that he feels important and unconditionally loved. It involves direct eye contact, undistracted time, and expressions of heartfelt interest in your child and his activities. Focused attention tells your child, “I like spending time with you.” Campbell says we should “seize the moment” whenever the opportunity arises to give our child focused attention, for this will make an impact on them that will stay with them for life.
Sometimes it may seem to a parent that his or her attempt at “focused attention” is not yielding any positive results with their child. But be sure that it is.
I read about a famous humanitarian whose diary spoke of a day he went fishing with his son. He lamented that the day was a “total loss” because his son seemed “bored and preoccupied, saying very little.” Years later a historian compared this with an entry for that same day in the son’s diary, which exclaimed what a “perfect day” it had been — spending all that time alone with his father.
Time is a precious gift to your child!
 Armand Nicholi, “What Do We Know About Successful Families?” This monograph is available from Grad Resources, 13612 Midway Road, Suite 500, Dallas, TX 75244.
 Nicholi, ibid.
 Ross Campbell, How to Really Love Your Child (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1977), p. 30.
 A good place to begin is Campbell’s book, How to Really Love Your Child.
 Campbell, p. 59.
 Campbell, pp. 59-60.
— Dr. Ron Rhodes