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Parenting Perspective: Parenting Hacks on Valentine's Day

I don't know about you, but I've been up to my eyeballs in Valentine's Day projects for my children to take to school with them. Cute cards that don't embarrass the fourth grade boy, little gifts the kids will love that don't break the bank, and special treats to surprise them have taken up more time than I care to admit. My oldest is in middle school now, and they don't do cards any longer. Today, I'm sending her with money for the current fundraiser: flowers for friends. I've instructed her that she can buy herself flowers, rather than waiting all day in anticipation that somebody might've sent one to her. (Thank you, Miley Cyrus...)

While all these projects are fun, it's a false view of love. The Valentine's Day hacks I'm going to share today don't have to do with cards and candy and flowers. It isn't those things that tell a child you love them. You let a child know how loved they are when you truly SEE them for who they are. When you take the time to ask them questions, LISTEN to the answers, and - this is the important part - try to understand them.

That's the true gift you can give to your child today. Children often express big emotions that are hard to understand or feel out of context for the situation. Try to refrain from saying something dismissive like, "Oh my goodness, that's ridiculous. You shouldn't feel that way." Instead, get down to their level, look them in the eye, and let them know you hear them. Validate them with phrases like, "It sounds like you're having a hard time right now." or "Will you tell me more about how you feel?"

I'm not suggesting you validate misbehavior, but look for opportunities to let them know you see them and you want to know them better. If you set up a pattern of listening to your children about the little things now, they'll feel safe to share the big things with you when they're bigger.

Lastly, the five love languages is one of the best parenting hacks I can think to share with you on Valentine's Day. Think through all the love languages and try to hit on all of them for each child today.

Physical touch? Draw that older, surprisingly stinky child into a bear hug and don't let go for a minute. (Bonus points if you refrain from mentioning the smell...)

Acts of service? You're likely already pretty high on this one since you're a parent, but look for something unusual you can do to serve your child today, even if it's just scratching their back for five minutes.

Words of encouragement? Send them out the door with reminders of all the ways they are awesome or all the things you love about them. Let them know you notice their uniqueness and value it.

Gifts? This doesn't have to be expensive, but thoughtful and focused on them as individuals. Again, let them know you see and hear them, and surprise them with something they didn't expect.

Quality time? This investment doesn't have to be a lot of time, but time where you put down your phone and focus on them. Leave your phone in the kitchen and play a game with them in the den. Go on a walk with one child and listen, refusing to lecture. (You can deal with correction later.) Ask a teenager to share one of their favorite songs with you and don't tell them how irritating that song is, but ask them why they like it. Try to understand.

This post is getting long, so I'll wrap it up with one final note. Don't forget to do those things for your spouse as well. Children feel secure when they see their parents loving one another well. Find ways to show your spouse how much you appreciate and love them as well.



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