Speaking of sugar, that’s my favorite term for hugs and kisses from little ones. Whenever a child is in my lap, I will kiss the top of his head every 15 seconds or so and not even realize it. My own children probably have indentations there from several thousand kisses a year, just counting church time. My grandchildren are learning it now. And they love it. I remember kissing Silas’s cheek once when he was two and having him run to his mama to tell her, “Grandma got sugar!” with a big grin on his face.
Little Judah especially loves the sugar game. The last time we were together after I had leaned over and gotten some “neck sugar” and “cheek sugar,” he grabbed his buddies and started kissing them. First Tiger, then Marshall, and finally he even balled up a wad of blankie and gave it a kiss. “Are you getting sugar?” I asked, and he smiled his contented little bashful smile and nodded his head yes.
Children revel in the knowledge that they are loved. It feeds a healthy self-esteem and gives them the feelings of security needed when they are out there trying things out and learning about their world. Failure doesn’t matter when you are loved.
And that is why a patently obvious love is absolutely essential to discipline. If you are the kind of parent you ought to be—setting boundaries and punishing inappropriate behavior from early on—your child needs to know that you love him more than life itself. He needs to hear those words and feel the warmth in your voice and your arms and your heart. Then it won’t matter that you punished him yesterday. He will know you love him and will try even harder to please you.
It isn’t all hugs and kisses. The older they get, the less that works. But you can still show it with words of appreciation, pride, and approval. Have you ever told your children how much it means to you when they behave in public? How wonderful it is that you don’t have to worry what they might do in someone else’s home? What a special gift it is in the middle of a stressful situation to know they are one thing you don’t have to worry about, that you can take them anywhere any time and they won’t act up, that it makes you want them with you even more? Do you think that saying those things might help them behave a little better?
If all they hear are complaints, growls, screams, and great heaving sighs of frustration and anger, all of them hurled in their direction, what do you think they will think about your feelings toward them? Even when they are very young, they can feel the tensions. Even when they do not understand the words, they will know something isn’t quite right. And they will always think it’s their fault and that’s why you don’t love them. Even when it’s your fault for not having disciplined them correctly or soon enough. Three or four hugs will get them past a deserved and justified spanking. It will take thirty to undo the hurt of an angry, sarcastic parent.
The last time Silas was with us I told him how proud I was of him, the way he took his medicine without fuss, the way he sat still in church and behaved in Bible class, the way he always brushed and flossed his teeth without having to be told. I told him how proud I was of how he took care of his little brother. He looked up at me the whole time, his attention never wavering, with his eyes shining and a big smile on his face.
“I love you, Grandma,” he said.
And of course, I got some sugar too.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him…and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, Ps 103:13; Titus 2:4.