I’m Persuaded. But HOW Do I Love?

Last week when we posted our new About Us page. We encouraged parents to pursue joy in their homes by learning along with our family the wonderful depths of love. We got this email asking a very good question:

HOW does one parent with love? I am struggling with wanting to do anything BUT raise my kids. I am expecting [another child] and I want to run away. I try to spend time in prayer and God’s word but my heart is not changing. This is not a new thing – I’ve felt this way for more than a year.

Wow, this is intense. Chris and I spend so much time trying to persuade people that they should love. Funny how we have to do that. But once persuaded, how do you love? The answer to that could fill a book. Let me share with you the steps I suggested to this online friend who asked an honest question, “How do I parent with love?”

1. Step 1: Recognize that there is a problem

It’s much too easy to fall into a blame game when there is tension in the home. We dodge responsibility in our attempt to justify our frustration. Don’t do that! Instead, be honest with yourself and admit that there is a problem. When we admit that a problem exists, we can take the situation to heart. You’re already on the road to finding an answer to your struggle.

This also keeps us from being mean to our kids, our spouse or ourselves. We tend to beat ourselves up for “feelings.” Having the “feeling” of running away does not make you a bad person. Running away does, but all of us have “take me away!” Calgon moments. Don’t beat yourself up for that.

Feelings are like pain. They don’t do anything but expose a problem. Feelings are just, well, feelings. We shouldn’t give into them, but see them as indicators that something is wrong that deserves our attention.

2. Step 2: Separate the lies from the truth

Truth is, you love your children. You wouldn’t say otherwise. Every parent – even the most dysfunctional – will insist she loves her children. You want to keep them fed and clean and you want to protect them from getting hurt and so on. You do love them. They are your sweet little bundles of joy.

Your feelings right now do not measure up with your honest love for your children. You’re fed up (the truth) and thinking of running away (the lie). In fact, shove that irritating lie out of the way; running away is silly to think about. It wouldn’t solve a thing and would blow up your family. It just isn’t an option, so forget it. Don’t stand for the lies of the Enemy who wants to ruin the good life you have built with your spouse and children.

Relax, you do not have to be a perfect parent (perhaps that’s another lie you fell for?) anymore than your children have to be perfect kids (I hope you’re not expecting that).

Here are some popular lies vs. truths out there:

  • Truth: my child is failing is school. Lie: my child should be perfect.
  • Truth: I’m frustrated with my spouse. Lie: my spouse should be perfect.
  • Truth: I’m tired of getting my kids to do chores. Lie: my kids are lazy and won’t ever learn to do their chores.
  • Truth: my home is filled with little kids. Lie: my children will always be small and I’ll always be running after littles.
  • Truth: we’re going through a difficult time. Lie: we’ll always be going through a difficult time.

See how the lies derail you from focusing on the problem? You end up overwhelmed, helpless, thinking the only way out is to run away. Refuse to give into the lies. When you refuse, you’re more apt to come up with solutions.

3. Step 3: Change what you can

It may seem awkward or wooden at first, but do the things that you know you should do. First think it, then do it. The feelings will follow.

In Love in The House I write about that very thing:

We all have choices to make, and choosing to love your children is the greatest of all choices. Failing to consciously make the choice to love can unfortunately, hinder your relationship with your children.”

For example, perhaps you’ve not felt inclined to treat your kids with affection. It may feel fake at first, but do things that show your affection for your kids. Give your daughter a hug and say you love her, even if you don’t feel like doing it. If you don’t feel like showing affection, at least you can pretend. Go through the motions. You will find that as you go through the motions, your feelings catch up with your behavior.

We can’t live our lives being dragged around by our negative feelings. When we feel it first before doing it, we usually regret our actions. Learn to do it the other way around.

I am amazed at how well this works. Instead of feeling like I used to feel – being dragged around by my negative feelings – I can instead put myself in charge by simply changing my thoughts.

I have felt this way too. I can identify with “take me away!” feelings. If I could give you a hug, I would! Of course, these steps to love are just scratching the surface. Does anyone else have any suggestions for this hurting mom?

About Wendy Jeub

Yes, Wendy Jeub has brought 16 children into the world, and loves each and every one of them. So much so, she'd welcome more!

  • Rebecca Clark

    thanks so much for helping all families refocus on what’s important.  love.  appreciate you SO much.

  • Jenny goff

    Thank you for this wonderful post! It is TRUE!!! We have adopted 17 children all with different attachment and trauma issues. And sometimes you just have to CHOSE to show love even when they are not acting very lovable. Showing love always makes the situation better never worse. 

    • Jane

      Have the Jeubs any thoughts about doing the same?

  • Janetkiessling

    Amen! & Awesome!

  • jen

    what great, practical truth we all need to remember! Glad you are feeling better!

  • Moosevillage2002

    Thank you for this post.  I think that I put too much emotion into things…or “feelings”.  I struggle with following those negative feelings…especially being affectionate with my oldest (she just turned 9).  I was not raised in an affectionate home and so it is not natural…but if I can set aside those feelings and truly focus on showing her love, I pray that it will get easier.  Thank you for this reminder.  :)  Oh, and from my comment in the last post…I got the JOY idea from the Duggars…it is on their family guidelines from their website.  Have a blessed day and thanks for the encouragement!

    • Chris Jeub

      Wendy, the kids and I got into quite the discussion about the JOY method of discipline. We’re not so sure we agree with it. I tried to find the article on the Duggar’s website, but couldn’t. Do you have a link?

      • Abby

        From memory it was mentioned on one of there very original specials, when there was 16 or so of them. Cannot think of its title. One of the documenteries, not the weekly show.

        • Beka

          The way I’ve always heard it referenced (not just by the Duggars, but by many Christian families) isn’t as a method of discipline, but more as a principle for behavior— put Jesus first, others second, yourself last. We teach that to our 2 year old— that she should think of what God wants her to do, think of how she can show love to her sister, friends, etc, and THEN consider what she wants. I’m curious what about it you didn’t agree with, or if it was referencing a different “method”?

      • Blessed2bhis

        It’s in their Duggar House Guidelines, I believe it was in their old website.  I wrote out our own and had a plaque made…the very last thing on the guidelines is J-O-Y…the Duggars made their kids recite the guidelines everyday and we do with our kids.  If we forget the kids really have a hard time behaving.  By reciting it aloud together everyday we all seem to feel held accountable for our actions.  And, when one does something wrong there are plenty of the others in the family to recite the guideline that went for that instance to remind them LOL….

  • Jane

    I think this mom should not have any more kids until she resolves her feelings (and perhaps even after she resolves them she may decide she’s had enough kids). If a mom is feeling depressed and unloving, another child is definitely NOT a blessing.

    • Chris Jeub

      Boy, aren’t you a bundle of encouragement.
       Children. They’re blessings. Always. Your rationale is flawed and wrong, and your advice is hardly helpful.

      • Nancyjoya

        How can you make a person love another child and believe they are a blessing if she does feels she cannot?  There is no flawed rationale there.  Maybe the woman has some depression or other family issues; this information was not provided.  It is hard to feel love when you do not love yourself.  It sounds like she needs some help.

        • Nancyjoya

          Meant to say “…if she does not feel she can?”  Grammar lapse.  I would be interested to hear opinions.  I know someone going through this.

        • Chris Jeub

          No one can “make” anyone love, and Wendy wasn’t saying this. Unlove is not a good place to be, and if you’re wrestling with frustration and bitterness toward a child, start at least acting nice. The feelings follow. I suppose the choice is to wallow in unlove, or to start taking steps toward love. Even if it feels awkward at first.

  • RJR

    This mom clearly needs some counseling and perhaps some outside help (with cleaning, cooking, etc). Is her husband stepping up to the plate to do his share of the work? Can she perhaps work outside the home for a few hours to get some adult time and extra money? Being home with your kids 24/7 does NOT work for everyone, and there is no cookie cutter formula for parenting.

  • Kathy

    You really can’t tell someone to love. It doesn’t work. It is better to solve the problems that cause exhausted, overworked moms to loose those feelings of love. I’d advise this mom to get out of the house more, spend time with friends, pay for a babysitter once a week, develop a hobby outside the home, put the little ones in preschool a few hours a week. In general, she should take care of herself,and her feelings of love may return.

    • guest

       love is a verb, not a feeling. So yes, you can tell someone to love or act loving toward someone.

    • CindeeN

       Jesus absolutely tells us to love.

      “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

  • Janetkiessling

    Hi there……Janet Kiessling here………………:0)………………I have seen the J*O*Y phrase or slogan or “words to live by” moto framed in bible stores, too!!! When we atarted homeschooling 8+ years ago ~ ( and we love the Duggars & the Jeubs..:)..)…..we had the letters J:esus (first)…….O:thers (second)……..Y:ourself(last) ~ up on the wall!!!! It is just something that we have always believed in & we have wanted to instill in the childrens lives! It had nothing to do with which family thought about it first & thats not what it should be about!!…:)  In our family, Jesus IS first in our life! ……..:0)
    Have a Blessed Day…………the Kiessling Family

  • Tereza Crump

    I had a huge hurdle a while back with one of my children. Her bad attitude would rub off on me. We would be always arguing and fighting. I had a hard time not getting angry with her. Every time she was disobedient, disrespectful or ugly I would return with the same attitude. I was lost. i did not know what to do. i thought I couldn’t do better. I felt hopeless and helpless. I thought she would never change. There were times I HATED her.

    BUT I kept praying and asking God for help. He showed me some books, websites, parents and people who were doing the right thing. Parents who were patient, kind, forgiving, gracious in spite of their kids attitudes or circumstances.

    The lie began falling apart and I saw that it was POSSIBLE for me to be kind, gracious, forgiving. I didn’t have to be ugly and angry at my child. I could be loving, patient and forgiving.

    Things began changing because my THINKING began changing. I realized my EMOTIONS were signs or feelers to show me what my thinking was. So if I was angry, I would analyze my thinking. “She is so disrespectful. She can’t talk to me like that. I am her Mom!” Before I exploded I would re-direct my thinking. “She is an immature child. She needs teaching. I can show her how to be respectful. I am her guide, her teacher, with kindness and patience I can show her to do better.”

    No longer would I get offended. I changed the lie for the truth of who I am and what God has called me to do.

    Amazingly, my child has changed because I have changed. Our relationship is 100% better. She is calm. I am calm. We are loving toward each other. When we have an altercation, within SECONDS she realizes she had a bad attitude, she repents and apologizes and tries a different approach. I am quick to forgive without anger or grudges. God is sooooo good! :)

    So what is the lie this Mom is believing? I can’t love my children. I am not patient enough. They are too much work. They make too many messes. I am all alone. Tomorrow everything will be the same. If I go somewhere else, it will be better.

    Begin again with the truth: God has poured His love in my heart. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Children are blessings from God. They are learning and growing each day. God is with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He helps me every day and in everything. He is helping me NOW. Tomorrow will be a better day. God has called me to be their Mom. He enables me to do this job. I can do this. I am faithful to his calling.

    The feelings will follow. The emotions will follow.

    At first it will SEEM like a huge mountain to climb. Like it’s impossible, BUT change ONE thought at a time. If you have to say one TRUTH over and over again at first. Do it!! Then add another one. Write them down. Carry them with you. When it gets hard, take your list of truth out and read it out loud so you can HEAR it. Have your husband and friends REPEAT those truths to you.

    I remember thinking this was too much work. Why did it have to be so hard? BUT my relationship with my child was more important than the hard work ahead. And once I began, the results kept showing up and then it became easier and easier. I was encouraged one step at a time.

    our relationship with our children is so important and so worth while. They are the treasures that we will see in Heaven. You can do this! Keep asking God for help, He will help you! Don’t dwell on your inadequacies but on your Source!

    here are some of the websites that helped me:


    • Chris Jeub

      This is a very nice and personal story, Tereza. Thank you for taking the time to articulate it!

  • Flowerfree2

    What about when you try to show them love and they don’t want it (push away, say “no”, become cross, etc.)? Is there still hope or have I ruined my chances. ~C