Not a one of us would argue the fact that children need to feel loved. It is a primary need for every one of us.
Yet there are things that spell love to kids other than those four letters: LOVE. Parents and adults who truly love their kids will provide not only food, clothing, and shelter.
They will also provide safety, security, and structure.
Children need Safety.
When a child feels unsafe, he will act up. He’ll threaten or defy authority because he has no respect for authority. He also knows he can’t trust the adults in his life to keep him safe. Whether he feels emotional or physical neglect, he will feel unsafe. If he experiences emotional or physical abuse, he will feel doubly unsafe. Like an animal cornered, he will lash out, trying to hurt others before they can hurt him. Like a forlorn kitten who finally trusts its owner, a child who feels safe will be your friend.
Children need Security.
We provide security by being consistent and by following through with our directions We provide security by having boundaries that a child cannot cross without receiving consequences. Making empty promises or drastic threats that kids know won’t be fulfilled leaves them feeling insecure. Children need to know that the relationship between their parents is solid and sure. When there is hidden discord, kids can still feel that discord. They need to know that the adults in their lives are in their corner and will not lie to them. If they can’t trust the adults in their lives to tell them the truth, to follow through, or to be consistent, then who can they trust? If they can’t trust anybody, then they will feel insecure. Like a baby swaddled in a warm blanket, a child who is secure will exhibit behavior that says he knows who he is and he knows he belongs.
Children need Structure.
There’s such security in knowing what to expect and from whom to expect it. When a child’s structure keeps changing, he begins to feel insecure and insignificant. Make it a high priority to provide structure. The structure your home provides might be different than mine and that’s okay. You might even need to change the structure, but if your kids know changes happen to help them, they will be okay.
Your family’s structure will be different than other families’. You might eat at a different time and your food choices might not be the same as your neighbor’s, but children need to know they can expect things to be the same even if the sameness is different on different days.
Giving your child responsibilities gives him structure. What he does is important; his responsibility is important and he needs to feel trusted and appreciated. This provides structure to his world.
When there is a safety net surrounding your child, when there is security in knowing he can trust the adults in his life, and when there is a calm and settled routine, your child will be secure. When your child is secure, he will know he is truly loved.