Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Beautiful Gold Love Cup

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5

Just as our Heavenly Father fills our cup to overflowing, so should we as parents pour love into our children. Their love cups are fragile and should constantly be replenished.  Sometimes children can be so fussy and naughty. At times like this, instead of speaking out in frustration and punishment, maybe it is time to stop and concentrate on how much attention you have been giving them. I'm not speaking of indulgence, but rather purposeful attentiveness to their needs. It's the need to be hugged or rocked, to be listened to, and the need to fulfill not simply their physical needs but their emotional ones as well. 

Old-fashioned wisdom sometimes says that children should be seen and not heard; that they should be kept in their place. This false wisdom pushes children into the background and expectations are that they have to grow up too soon. In Victorian days children were thought of as miniature adults and were expected to act that way at a young age. Instead, I prefer the theory that you cannot spoil a child with too much love.  Pure love seeks to meet the needs of the child so that their love cup is full. What do children see as love? Essentially, to a child love equals attention. And lots of it! 

Children who do not receive enough attention tend to seek it in ways that are less than attractive to others around them. They may act up, show off, or get in the way. It's all a way to say "I need someone to notice me because right now I am feeling insignificant". If a child cannot get enough attention by being good or doing the right thing, he will automatically swing to the other side of the pendulum and will act out or do naughty things. As far as he is concerned, subconsciously attention is attention. It doesn't matter if is happy attention or negative attention. At least he is receiving it. But, how much more pleasant it is for the family if happy attention is what is sought and received. 

If a child's love cup is filled, a happy child is the result. I remember when our children were toddlers and would start to get fussy. About 99% of the time they needed some type of parental love or affirmation. Instead of scolding them for being fussy, we as parents quickly learned that scooping them up in our arms for some cuddle time or just listening to them as they explained something that was important to them usually took care of the problem. Love cups are made to be filled! If actions indicate that love levels are declining quickly, it is time to refill the cup!

There are three ways to fill a child's love cup. Each is important in helping children establish that they have self-worth (a gift which comes from God and is taught and expressed through the vehicle of parental love and acceptance). They are:

  • Accept. We may not always accept a child's behavior, but we must always make it 100% clear that we accept them! Make sure your child knows that he has always been wanted and loved. And affirm that he will continue to be accepted for as long as you live.  Respect your child, affirm him, and let him know by word and action that you accept them just as he is. Naughty or nice, your children are your precious gems. Make them feel like their love cup is made from gold!
  • Listen. It's easy to push children aside when it comes to opinions and thoughts.  Because their thoughts are immature, it might be easy to minimize them by hurrying them on and not really listening to what they have say. But their feelings are valid, and their thoughts are who they are. Take time to listen with sensitivity and warmth. It's a wonderful way to fill their love cup to overflowing.
  • Time.  Children equate time with value.  The more time you give to them, the more his or her needs will be met.  Quality time is important, but quantity time is important too!  Don't accept that fallacy that short periods of quality time a day are enough.  Be sure you find lots of quality time in great quantity!  Have fun with your children.  Laugh, share, play, and create with them.  Even if you have to sacrifice expensive things, remember that your time is more important than any material thing you can give your child. 

Picture your child as a beautiful gold cup and strive to keep it filled to the brim!  Gems of acceptance, listening, and time adorn the cup. 

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