How to Teach Your Child to Love

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts Sheridan House Family Ministries

This being the “Love Month” the topic of love is worthy of discussion … even in a parenting article. In fact, teaching children the proper understanding of love might be one of the most neglected areas of parenting. And, that neglect might be very damaging for a child’s future success in life.

At first glance it sounds very worldly to challenge a parent to raise a child to “be a great lover.” But should we let our children gain this expertise by encouraging them to watch television shows like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette? This is what the world around us thinks love is all about. In our culture to love something is to want it so badly that you are willing to do what it takes to get it. This current society believes that love refers to a great “want.” But that sounds like lust! Certainly God’s plan for love is significantly more intricate than the act of desiring.

Before anything else parents must decide that teaching a proper understanding of love is important enough to teach their children. Where does it rank when it comes to thinking through soccer schedules, learning times tables and getting science projects done?

Jesus actually said that a proper understanding of love is the most significant thing we can do (Matthew 22:37-40). Wow! If it is the most important thing we are to do, shouldn’t it follow that it should be the most important thing we are to train our children?


What is love?

After deciding that training the child to be a great lover is important, the next step is to decide what love is. It is not just a matter of finding a definition; it is a matter of choosing the correct place to find the definition.

Our culture defines love as a very conditional interaction with the focal point of that love. You love someone as long as you are getting the things you want in return. You love something for what it does for you. When this arrangement is no longer meeting your needs, you consider finding someone else.

The attempt by our culture to define love is more “want” than a love. It sounds like each individual is driving down the highway called life, pulling into a stop area to get his or her needs met. When their needs tank is full, the person pulls out looking for more opportunities to fill their tank. That kind of “love” leaves this culture strewn with broken people. These are people who are devastated with pain and loss, all because we have lost the understanding of what it means to love another person. It is obvious that we need to turn this around and teach our children what love really is all about. 

Our culture teaches children that life is all about taking care of self. In other words, love thyself. The culture teaches that the more you get out of life, the more fulfilled you will be. In our heart of hearts, we all know this is not true.


Love is something you give

loveOften the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. Love is not something you get or something you use to get what you want. The opposite is true — love is something you give.

In God’s creative design and incredible wisdom, He gives us an opportunity to learn to love when we have babies. Having a baby enter your life is one of life’s most amazing experiences.

Let’s face it, looking at the cold hard facts, that baby does nothing for your life. It smells up the house, radically changes its mom’s figure, uses up your money and leaves you without sleep. What kind of deal is that? There are moments that you might not like being a parent, but you would do anything for the baby. You love that baby.

A parent doesn’t love that baby because he or she is beautiful. Actually the baby is beautiful to the parent because he/she loves the baby.

God has taught us what it means to love through his plan for our offspring. He has also taught us in his word. When asked the question about priorities and relationships, Jesus answered in Matthew 22, that the most important thing we can do is love God first and then love the people around us second. That leaves me, the great and incredibly needy me, in third place. I’m third. The meeting of my personal needs is third.

If this kind of definition of love is the most important thing we are to do, the question begs to be asked: Who’s teaching that today? The answer should be parents! Children must grow up in a home where they see their parents sacrifice for each other.

America’s next generation needs to be able to see that love means putting yourself aside for the sake of love. How else will they ever be able to understand a God who put His deity aside for over thirty years only to die in our place? There is no greater love!


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