Showing your children love is an instinctual part of parenthood. But as your children grow, and your role in their lives evolves, you may find showing you son or daughter love in diverse and profound ways takes a bit of resourcefulness. Hugs and kisses pacify a weary toddler, but won't impress a tween, or young adult.

So here are a few more ways to show your children love that you can implement right now. These work at any age and stand the test of time, even into adulthood; where your role as a parent changes again:

No comparison

Try not to compare your children to anyone. Not to yourself. Not other people you think they should look up to or model themselves after. And especially not to each other. Your child is just trying to develop a sense of self and find his individual place in the word. The last thing he needs is an authority figure, someone who could be helping him develop this sense of self, telling him to be like someone else. Someone he is not. Teach your children to be who they are. And if she has a hard time figuring that out, help her have experiences, meet people, and learn enough about the world so that she naturally begins to gravitate toward something, and contribute to it.

Added values

Introduce your children to values that are beneficial to all stages of their lives, and improve their outlook in life. Tailoring your guidance to their specific age range and social development is also crucial, but don't forget that it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. If you teach your child to think about things or respond one way, then try to refine the tactic later. She may get stuck in an a state that is no longer appropriate for where she is in life. Teach your child timeless principles, like understanding, compassion and care. Guide them into a more affirmative attitude about life so in times of distress they have valuable coping skills. Then support them as they develop their own values.

Personal fulfillment

There's nothing like seeing pure joy on your child's face. His smile can light up a room. Foster more smiles, laughter and joy in your child's heart and in their life. Help your son find the activities that bring him joy and engage his intellect, creativity and zeal. An introductory class, starter kit or first meeting could turn into a lifelong passion. Maybe even a career. Help your daughter find her passion and enthusiasm in life. But make sure it's really hers. Not just what you want for her.

High Achievers

Everyone needs to be recognized for their accomplishments and encouraged where they struggle. Note your children's achievements; both internal and external. This means digging deeper than the surface and acknowledging their emotional and social success, along with the physical achievements. When your son is young, reward him for things likes sharing. When an adolescent, note your daughter's compassionate and understanding attitude toward her peers. As teens, reward your kids for making beneficial decisions, like:

  • Excelling in school

  • Participating in extracurriculars

  • Abstinence

  • Drinking

  • Smoking

  • Drugs

  • Sexual activities

  • Other harmful activities

It may seem odd to reward your teen for doing things he "should" be doing. But you wouldn't turn down a bonus at work because you were just doing your job, would you? Positive reinforcement is heartening and effective. Use it.

Lead by example

Show your children how to love themselves, their family, neighbors and the world by modeling it for them. Take personal time to do what you are passionate and enthusiastic about. Treat yourself with respect. Engage with others who are compassionate, respectful and caring. Respond constructively if others fail to engage you this way. Take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings, words and actions. You are the most powerful influence in your child's life. Even if you cannot see it now, decades down the road your offspring will remember the kind words and admonishment you may have given them. Even more so, they will find themselves with the same good and bad habits you had. Give them more good to remember and model than bad.

The most influential part of my childhood was the freedom my parents gave me to be and believe what I chose. Even though this often changed as I matured, and perplexed them, it warms my heart to know many do not get this privilege. While I believe it is a right to choose my own path and explore my options, many parents remain steadfast and justified in their influence over their children's path. With plenty of physical affection, recognition of achievement and individuality, and an ever-broadening perspective, my childhood was full of love because it was full of possibility and support.

Showing your children love begins with appreciating what love means to you. Then you can translate it to meet the needs of your sons and daughters. Each child is an individual, but everyone can benefit from affection, acceptance and support. Show all of these things in ways that are meaningful and enduring to each child. In this way, they will know and feel in their hearts they are special. Not just to you, but in the world. Use love to help them build a solid foundation from which to grow and prosper.

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