Besides his own name, another word B likes to spontaneously spell is "L-O-V-E ... Love!" So I figured Valentines Day was a good reason to look at LOVE as we apply fruits of the spirit at home. Here's B's "Thumbody loves you" V-day craft to kick off the theme :)
1) Say and show it often. We always wish each other "晚安,我爱你,明天见" ("Good night, I love you, see you tomorrow") every night. When dad is away for long, we record him a video that usually ends with a flying kiss! Although I wasn't raised like this with my typical Asian parents, I don't hesitate kissing, hugging and praising B and find that he soaks it up like a sponge. Rather than being spoiled (as some of the older generation may caution), I find that he becomes more assured and affectionate in return, which has helped during his frequent separation anxiety phases. In the book "The Five Love Languages of Children" the authors encourage parents to keep your child's emotional tank full, use all five languages (physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service), and pay attention to their behaviour as it often tells you which one speaks the loudest to them. Usually these preferences emerge around 3-4 years on.
2) Love obeys and forgives. We shouldn't continue doing wrong things and we shouldn't stay angry with others. Whenever B acts up, I make it a point to look him in the eye and state "Stop. That hurt mama/your friend, made us feel angry/sad". I'll then ask him "Was that wrong or right?" When he sees that this is serious and acknowledges "B is wrong. I am sorry," I'll say "It's OK. But don't do it again!" Of course, sometimes he gets rather cheeky and says "B is wrong, right?" What you say or do must match what's in your heart. The Chinese character for forgiveness - 恕 (shu) incorporates a heart below a woman and a mouth. When we forgive others with words from our heart, we learn to put others before ourselves, practicing love and "human-heartedness."
3) Love is selfless. Kids learn by imitation so take every opportunity to demonstrate selflessness. Evidently, tots do a lot of proto-sharing - i.e. they may be willing to show what they hold to others but won't quite let go (sound familiar?). It's a big step, so reinforce and reward the act. When B's friends come by, it's also quite common to see ALL the boys want the exact same double decker bus (or train) that one of them develops a liking for. When potential tantrums/fights come up, try to offer duplicates or alternatives, and if that doesn't work, keep the item-in-question and engage them in a fun group project. It's key to NOT punish your tot at this age for not sharing. Let him know your feelings but don't make a big deal out of it. They'll get there and may surprise you one day! Case in point: I've been feeling quite down and worn out as everyone was sick or away again, on top of our ongoing failure to conceive #2 despite trying everything we can think of. There's also been days when I've lost my temper and somehow, B knows the best way to diffuse it - by kissing, hugging me and saying "Mama, be happy... So happy" Toddlers may be the most self-centered beings at times, yet their empathy and ability to love others amazes me. They DO listen, share and care!
4) Love and forgive others just as God loves and has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32, 1 Colossians 13). Some of our favourite songs to reinforce:
- "Jesus Loves Me": Our first bible song together, B used to fall asleep to this
- "Whisper": A lovely song that teaches kids to say "I love you" to parents and to Jesus in a soft voice :) I couldn't find a video but the lyrics are included below
- Barney's "I Love You" original and this adapted version: I forgive you, you forgive me. We forgive each other, can't you see? With a great big hug, and a kiss from me to you, won't you join us, and forgive too?
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