The following is an excerpt from a great online resource for parents, Real Families, Real Answers. Sponsored by the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, articles on the website are authored by students and faculty in the School of Family Life and are reviewed by a team of content experts and copy editors before publication.
“Love is the first of a three-part formula for parenting: Love, limits, and latitude. Loving children is so important that researchers sometimes call it the “super-factor” of parenting. Good nurturing makes children feel loved and cherished, and researchers have found that without that feeling, there’s little else parents can do to make up for it.
Urie Bronfenbrenner, a renowned expert on child development, says every child needs parents who are crazy about him or her-an “irrational relationship.” Children are wired to “fall in love” with their parents, and they deserve parents who fall in love back.
Beyond the obvious benefits of nurturing love, research shows that loving and nurturing parenting is linked to better child behavior at all ages. Nurturing parents build strong bonds with their children, providing them with a sense of security that helps them grow into confident and loving people.
How can you be a more loving and nurturing parent? Here are some ideas:
Learn your child’s love language. Each person feels love in a different way. A wise parent carefully studies how a child likes to receive love, and then sends love in that way often. Without this care, actions that a parent might think are loving can be perceived as unloving. For example, one mother came home from a long day at work, met her little boy at the front door, ruffled his hair, told him “I love you!” and walked to her room. He followed her and replied, “Mommy, I don’t want you to love me, I want you to play catch with me!”
In another example, a father invited his teenaged son to hunt big game in Montana. The father thought the expedition together would be a great way to spend time with his son and show his love. But what the son really wanted from his father was less dramatic – he just wanted his dad to go with him occasionally to a nearby reservoir and watch the ducks take off.
How can parents learn their child’s love language? One way, according to parent educator Wally Goddard at the University of Arkansas, is simply to notice ways you’ve already shown love that your child asks for more of. One father says his children love their outings with him one at a time. They frequently ask, “When are we going on our one-on-one?” His youngest daughter is emphatic about wanting to go swimming for their time together. By honoring her request, he shows his love for her in one of the ways she can best receive it.
You can also learn about your child’s love language by noticing how she or he shows love, according to Goddard. Children often show love in the way they like to receive it. Or you might try recalling when you felt especially loved by someone and identify what that person did, then treat your child similarly.
You can also take the direct approach-ask your children what you do or say that helps them feel loved. Answers might include hugs, bedtime stories, one-on-one outings, midnight pancakes and conversation, playing a game together, or a special gift.”
For more helpful ideas on loving and nurturing your children, read the rest of the article here.