One of the most astonishing and spiritually enlightening discoveries a child can make—and they often make it during the preschool years—is that they can be loved unconditionally. Nothing you’ve done can make God love you less, and nothing you do can make God love you more. A child’s ability to believe this depends, in part, on whether we as parents and caregivers can love them in that same way.
It’s hard for us as parents—we’re only human, and we tend to get exasperated with our children, especially at this wild and energetic age. You’ll never do it perfectly, and that’s okay. But we can help ourselves—and therefore our children—by stepping back and looking at the expectations we have for our children.
This might not seem like a faith-based question, but it really is: Are you putting your child in organized sports or academic classes that pressure them to perform? If you say, “I love you no matter what,” but then give an ESPN-worthy critique of how they played in their pee-wee league soccer game on the ride home, they’re not going to believe that you actually love them unconditionally. If they bring home an art project and you offer your ideas for how it could be neater or prettier or just plain better, your child gets the message that they aren’t quite who you want them to be.
If you find yourself with high expectations, take some time to figure out where they’re coming from. Then do your best to adjust them. Think about what really matters to you. Will you love your child more if they can cut paper more neatly than the other preschoolers? Of course not. Will they be any less precious to you or to God if they never score a goal? Nope. Even when they struggle to listen, to obey, to cooperate, you know there’s nothing they can do that would change your love for them. Make sure they know it too.
The Frolic book Jo and the Slow Soup reminds children—and their parents—that good things always take a little time to grow.
Originally Published 6/13/2017