My daughter was maybe 4 years old. I was outside talking to our neighbor one Saturday morning when Rachel came up to me. While I’m talking, she tugs on my pant leg and tells me, “Daddy, I need some attention.”
Wow! I know some dads who would have brushed their daughter’s hand away and dismissed her with, “Not now, honey, can’t you see I’m busy?” That would have been taking in the big picture, prioritizing my needs and pulling a power play at my daughter’s expense. Thankfully, I did not do that. I motioned a pause to my friend, knelt down to be on eye level with Rachel, and asked, “Okay, Sweetheart, what’s going on?”
I can’t think of a more loving thing that my daughter could have done in that instant than to identify her feelings, seek consolation, and get feedback. Rachel was loving herself.
Many children live in an environment where they should be seen but not heard. To the contrary, as loving parents, we want to encourage our children to love themselves. In Scripture, Jesus calls us in his second greatest commandment to “love one another as you love yourself.” That is, loving myself, which means understanding and attending to my needs and feelings, is a prerequisite for loving one another.
Children, and grown-ups for that matter, can demonstrate loving themselves by several specific ways. First, make time to both eat and sleep well. This is how we keep our bodies strong and resilient. Exercise healthy diet, be active, and make time for fun. Second, have family and friends with whom you can share your honest feelings. Some people call this a confidante relationship, oftentimes found in BFFs, someone with whom you are Best Friends Forever. Third, children and adults alike often benefit from keeping a journal of events and feelings. This is like being best friends with yourself, celebrating today’s challenges and victories, while making plans for tomorrow. Finally, as a part of developing a personal relationship with Jesus, make time for individual and family devotion and prayer. This involves sharing your day and hearing from Him about questions and circumstances.
Do your children love themselves? They will take their lead from you. Developing these 4 habits will help us all move from surviving this life to thriving.