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Different Ways Parents Show Love and Why It’s Important

Love comes in many forms. Siblings, spouses, families, friends, cousins—these are just a few relationships that involve love.

The foremost form of love that people experience is parental love, and that is why, it is safe to say that parental love is the most important form of love. The love a person receives in childhood shapes their definition and understanding of love for the rest of their life.

Children who grow up feeling loved, learn to give and receive love a lot easier than children who are taught they don’t deserve love or grow up feeling neglected.

As a parent, knowing the different ways parents show love and understanding why expressing love to children is important can help you maintain a healthy relationship with your child.

Parental Love and How it effects
Parental Love and How it Effects


In This Article


Different Ways Parents Can Express Love

Different Ways Parents Express Love
Different Ways Parents Express Love

Why Parental Love is Important?

Children first and foremost experience love through their parents before anything else. That is why parental love is crucial for childhood development and growth.

Every form of development (physical, emotional, cognitive, social, cultural) depends on human connection and interaction. Since children mainly receive this connection through their parents, parents must show adequate love and support to their children. These factors shape a child’s academic performance as well as their relationships and outlook on the world.

Children who don’t receive a loving and caring environment are more likely to struggle later on in life. Unloved and neglected children are also more prone to falling into bad habits and developing strange behaviours such as:

  • Substance abuse

  • Violence

  • Fawning

  • People-pleasing behaviours

A parent who was taught that children need to be given difficulty for them to grow stronger and face the world won’t understand the importance of expressing love.

The world is a harsh enough place. Children don’t need another life lesson or reality check. They need a safe environment in which they can develop confidence and control over their lives.

Should Parents Show Unconditional Love?

Unconditional Love of Parents
Unconditional Love of Parents

To love someone unconditionally means to love them completely without limitations.

For instance, we love people even though they have their faults. Those faults don’t stop us from loving someone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t advise someone about their bad decisions.

Sometimes parents are afraid of giving their kids consequences or stopping their bad behavior because they think that’s what love is. But this only hurts you, your child, and others. On the other hand, some parents use the idea of unconditional love to control their kids.

In some situations, a parent might think that their love is unconditional when it’s not. For instance, a parent might always tell their kid that they love unconditionally, but when the child lets them down, they begin to treat the child differently. Because of these mixed messages, children can become confused about what love looks like.

Unconditional love should mean love without strings attached, but not love without limitations or conditions.

As a parent, you need to be a role model to show your child right from wrong. Sometimes that means putting your foot down.

Even then, you shouldn’t tell your kid you don’t love them. Attaching the string to your love by only expressing love when a child is good and refusing it when they aren’t isn’t healthy love. Instead, express disapproval and give appropriate consequences because it teaches children what is acceptable and what is not.

How Parents Express Love and its Effects

Parental Expression of Love
Parental Expression of Love

Good Ways to Show Love to Your Children

People show and give love in different ways. As a parent, you need to make sure that your child can feel that they are loved, and not just told.

Some ways to show love are:

  • Spend time together

  • Tell your child you love them and give them specific reasons why (verbal affirmations)

  • Get them gifts

  • Listen to them talk about their interests

  • Talk to them without lecturing them or teaching them things

  • Learn about their favourite sports, games and hobbies

  • Give physical affection

  • Express how you are grateful to have them in your life

  • Share stories about their childhood and your favourite memories with them

  • Do activities together (read, draw, go hiking etc.)

  • Remember the little things about them and what they like

  • Reassure them when they feel down

  • Comfort them when they are having a hard time (solutions aren’t always the answer)

  • Leave cute notes in their lunchbox or their room

Expressing love doesn’t mean you have to always do big things to prove that you love your child. Love can be shown in subtle ways as well as apparent.

What’s important is that you put effort into your relationship with your child. Even if you aren’t the best at expressing love, your child will notice that you are prioritizing them.

Bad Ways to Show Love to Your Children

The worst way to show love is through ‘tough love’. While you will have to put your foot down and be strict at times while raising your child, being harsh or overly strict is counterproductive.

All people, especially children, flourish under love and kindness. Teach your child through compassion, not force. You’ll find them to be more forgiving of you, themselves and the world.

Some bad habits that can ruin your expression of love are:

  • Testing your child with difficult situations to see how they react

  • Not respecting your child as a separate individual

  • Constantly lying to your child or breaking promises

  • Undermining your child’s knowledge and abilities

  • Treating them like a baby but expecting mature results from them

  • Refusing their love or ignoring their needs when you are upset with them

  • Not respecting their opinions, beliefs or dreams

  • Depending on them emotionally (treating them like a therapist)

  • Criticizing, mocking or insulting them or their interests

Some parents say ‘I love you’ to their children but also act on these toxic and controlling behaviours. This mixed message of love and hurt will ruin your child’s expectations of others. In the future, they will be at a greater risk of falling into abusive relationships.

Children know when they are being mistreated. Don’t make fake promises with them or mistreat them thinking that they will forget about it when they are older or keep coming back to you. This irresponsible behaviour will only distance you from your child altogether.

Parenting styles often influence how parents express love. Learn more about 4 Types of Parenting Styles: A Comprehensive Guide

Reasons Why a Parent Might Not Show Love

Kid Pulling His Father
Kid Pulling His Father

The most common reason why a parent might not show love to their child is because they are unable to express that love. This can be because of:

  • Their childhood upbringing

  • Mental health issues

  • Trouble expressing themselves

  • The belief that children need ‘tough love'

Many of these issues are linked to a parent's incapability of expressing their needs and feeling loved. Most people become parents before they can truly become comfortable in their skin.

Parents are also required to work and care for their children 24/7. Having so much to do with such little support can prevent a parent from looking after their own physical and emotional needs. This can create feelings of resentment or make a parent numb to emotions in general.

A parent can’t express a love they haven’t received or understood themselves. To be able to give love you need to have it inside of you.

“You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

Is it Okay to Have Favorites?

Parents Loving their Daughter
Parents Loving Their Daughter

Even the most loving and fair parents can have favourites. A 2018 survey found that 23% of parents have a favourite child.

Some children just click more with their parent’s personalities and beliefs. More commonly, well-behaved children are easier to be with than children who are rude and difficult. It also doesn’t have to be constant. A parent might switch between favourites as children grow up.

Feeling closer to one child in comparison to the rest is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. There isn’t anything wrong with having a favourite child unless that favouritism makes you act unjustly between your kids.

Children can sense when they are being favoured over their other siblings, and vice versa. Knowing that they are the favourite child can make a child disrespectful to your other kids because they’ll think they can get away with anything. In contrast, if a child feels they are loved less than another sibling, they will become resentful and hurt.

Uneven sibling dynamics can cause a lot of tension between your kids. Some parents behave unjustly with their kids. For instance, being more strict with the child they dislike and more easygoing with their favourite. As a parent, you must make sure you give your children equal care, attention and love.

What is the Most Effective Form of Discipline?

Some parents grew up being taught that love is conditional instead of unconditional. This can look like:

  • Refusing to spend time with a child

  • Refusing their needs

  • Giving silent treatment when a child does something wrong.

  • Might swear at the child or tell them that they aren’t worthy of their love and efforts

Love that should be considered a given becomes a weapon to use against the child during an argument. An instance of this is reminding a child how much a parent works for their sake, or how they spent on their birthday gifts and so on.

In these situations, children are being told that they aren’t worthy of being loved when they mess up or make mistakes. This is not a good form of discipline.

Teach your child that they aren’t a bad person, they just do bad things.

Negative Discipline

The focus should be to correct the behaviour, not shame the child. Children need parental love and guidance even more when they mess up. Refusing to provide that compassion and understanding will only lead to more issues.

A child that is raised without love as a consequence is more likely to think badly about themselves and crumble whenever they mess up in the future. Children who are afraid to make mistakes or change their bad behaviour will only fall into more bad habits because of unhealthy coping behaviours and low self-esteem.

Instead of using children’s vulnerability and their need for love against them to correct their behaviour, adopt positive forms of discipline.

Father Scolding His Son
Father Scolding His Son

Positive Discipline

The positive discipline focuses on identifying good and bad behaviour. By doing so, it aims to change the narrative when responding to bad behaviour. A simple instance would be explaining to a child what they can do instead of what they shouldn’t.

Another instance would be saying, ‘I think you could work on being more respectful to others’, instead of saying ‘You are being very disrespectful these days.’ Creating a focus or goal instead of just shaming can help a child identify what they need to work on.

When using positive forms of discipline, the objective is to give consequences that teach a child a lesson and help them grow. It makes the outcome of the consequences seem hopeful and not just another form of control.

A Portrait of Loving Family
A Portrait of Loving Family


What is the 80/20 rule of parenting?

In general, the 80/20 rule refers to a cause-and-effect relationship. In parenting, this can mean putting in 20% effort in your relationship with your child and seeing 80% results. You don’t have to necessarily put 100% of your effort into being with your child. Having a balance between your other priorities–while still giving sufficient attention to your child–is the way to go.

What makes a real parent?

It is commonly believed that a parent’s only responsibility is to fulfil the physical and nutritional needs of a child. Giving birth to a child (or being biological parents) is enough to make you a parent. However, that doesn’t mean you’re a good parent. A real parent is someone who genuinely supports and nurtures their child. Being a real parent means being a role model. Your child should feel safe enough to be vulnerable and honest around you.

What causes a child to feel unloved?

You don’t have to outright tell your child you don’t love them for them to feel unloved. A mistake parents often make is that they think that saying the words ‘I love you’ is enough. If a child is made to feel like a burden then it’s likely that they will feel like they aren’t lovable enough to be heard or given attention. If your actions contradict your words, your child will feel confused about the love they receive. For instance, if you belittle your child, take out your anger on them, disrespect their space, needs and individuality, or treat them like they are stupid/ignore them, then words of love will not be well received. Even if you say ‘I love you’ to them, they aren’t going to feel that love, understandably.

What happens when a child doesn't feel loved?

It is common for children who feel unloved to get into fights, cause trouble and have meltdowns. To you, it may seem like your child is being ‘difficult’ or naughty, but in reality, the child is looking for attention and affirmations. Everyone needs assurance that they are wanted, including kids. If a child is continuously denied love or grows up feeling unloved, they will develop an almost irreversible mindset that they are not deserving of compassion or care. The damage of feeling unloved as a child is severe and long-lasting. For that reason, if your child’s behaviour is beyond your understanding, try considering that they are trying to convey feelings or needs that they can’t vocalize or understand.

What is cold mother syndrome?

Cold mother syndrome mainly refers to emotionally unavailable mothers, however, the term can be applied to both parents. Emotionally detached parents struggle to emotionally connect to their children or feel their own emotions. In some cases, parents don’t show interest in their child’s needs because they don’t feel love or emotion towards their child. It is more common for mothers to get this syndrome because many mothers struggle with postpartum depression and similar mental healtColdated, cold mother syndrome can lead to child neglect if left untreated and abuse. The result of lack of love and emotional stimulation is impaired childhood growth and development.

Summary of Different Ways Parents Show Love and Why It’s Important

There is no concrete way to express love as a parent. Every family is different and each parent has another way of connecting with their child. However, don’t make love a privilege and use it against your child. By doing this, you are teaching them that they are only worthy of love if others approve of them.

Every relationship requires effort. Make sure you put the right amount of effort into loving yourself to properly love your child. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

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