Last week I shared a really important concept called The Love Bank. While the concept holds true in every significant relationship in your life, it is especially critical for husbands and wives.
The same premise is echoed in your parent-child relationships. I want to share a few specific thoughts on how the premise of the love bank works with parents and children. But first, here are a few ideas that will lay the groundwork for the best application of the Love Bank principle in parenting;
- As a quick reminder, the premise is this: there exist a sort of “love bank” between us and others we interact with on a regular basis. Every interaction is either making a deposit or withdrawal into that love bank. When there begin to be more withdrawals than deposits, distance, bitterness, and broken relationships are sure to follow.
- The highest ideal of Biblical love is Agape love. This is the self sacrificing, unconditional love Christ demonstrates for us, and which we are called to demonstrate with one another. In terms of Agape love, it seems absurd to say that that our selfless, unconditional love for one another is dependent on our positive and negative interactions. So maybe “Love” isn’t the best word. Perhaps the “Affection Bank” is more accurate. But that sounds a bit awkward, so we are sticking with “Love”.
- Most parents would probably say something like “I will always love my kids, no matter what.” But the reality is that our affection and delight in our kids is very much based on our experiences with them. You can love someone who grieves you, someone you don’t particularly want to be around.
- Christ calls me to love everyone. And I want to be like Jesus. But I know that my love is not as patient as His, not as kind, and not as steady. Knowing I have a long way to go, I want to intentionally build affection for my kids, so that I more readily love them as Christ calls me to.
Ephesians 6:1-3 tells children to obey their parents and to honor their Fathers and Mothers. Ephesians 6:4 charges fathers to not exasperate their children. Mothers get a free pass apparently (kidding). There are dozens of principles to pull out of Ephesians 6:1-4, but one relevant one today is that relationships are a two way street.
Like it or not, you have a love bank with each of your kids. And your kids each have a love bank with you. Affection, fondness, and happy experiences together are like the grease that keeps the “machine” of family moving.
Some of those reading this have super easy kids. This might be the most natural thing in the world in your family. If so, praise the Lord. But others of us have a hard kid, or several hard kids. Here are some specific thoughts that should help both you and your kids keep healthy love bank accounts. Note-this is all directed at parents. I don’t expect children to read parenting websites!
- Pray for your kids. Intentionally spend time praying prayers of thanks for them. Pray details of thankfulness to God for specific traits you love. If you praise God for your kids, it should be easier to praise your kids.
- Aim for a 5-1 rule at a minimum. For every piece of correction you need to do, find five different ways to praise them. This doesn’t mean that at the time of correction you need to stop and give them five different praises. It means that the pattern of your interaction with them is that you are LOOKING for things to praise. It also means you are going to be more judicious in correcting. You can’t correct everything all at once. You’ll crush their spirits. My suggestion is to pick easy wins (things they can easily correct and receive praise) or stick with the vital stuff that feels like it will invoke long term harm if not addressed. Everything else has time. What’s an example? Let them dress sloppy if you’re content enough with how they are covering the important body parts.
- Own up to your errors. If you play the role of Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, you’ll train them to not admit fault either. Humble yourself and apologize when you can.
- Do things together. Make effort to find things that you both like to do, spend time doing them. Sometimes you’ll have meaningful talks along the way. Sometimes you’re just building a reservoir of fond experiences.
- Ignore junk behavior. This is different at every stage of life, but not every behavior needs to be corrected every time. Let them breathe, figure things out. If, while they are young, they see that everything they do sets you off, you’ve given them a weapon to manipulate as you get older.
- Finally, the bigger the trouble they are in, the more exasperated you are, the less you want to see them.. at these times it’s most critical to make extra effort to plan positive experiences together. You’re mirroring Jesus by showing unconditional love, and you’re filling both of your love banks by focusing on something other than their failures.
We’ve got kids at so many stages of life, with so many issues. I know this is fairly general. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the ways that YOU help fill the love bank with your children?