Young child's hand Held by a Parent Outdoors
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How Do We Love Our Kids for Who They Are, Not for What They Do?

We want our kids to understand they are loved for who they are and not for what they do. But how can we live that out as their parents?

It seems easy and obvious to show our love for them by asking them about what they are learning and showing up at their soccer games and cheering for them on stage. But sometimes I wonder whether being present for their achievements and performances translates into a subtle message that their worth in our eyes comes from those achievements and performances. 

What I’m realizing is that underneath the questions about science class and showing up on the sidelines needs to be a commitment to be present to our kids. To set aside my book when I’m snuggled under the covers at the end of the day, and listen to whatever they want to tell me when they come upstairs for bed. To reach out to spend “unproductive” time with them—taking a walk or eating a meal or getting our nails done. To sit with them when things are uncomfortable and hard. To sit with them when they are a little bit surly or grumpy or rude. To let them know my love is not conditional upon their behavior or any accolades from others.

If I communicate my care for them through being with them, then that same care can undergird the cheers and report cards.

My measure as a parent does not come from their accomplishments, and they will not receive my love for them through praise. Rather, they will receive my love when I give them my time, my attention, my delight in who they are. 

As I give them love in this way, I begin to recognize that this is the way I am loved too. Not for what I do but for who I am. Loving others can help me understand loving myself. What a beautiful truth.

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