February is the month we recognize and appreciate “love” and the power it holds in our lives. Children exchange valentines and candy in classrooms. Lovers plan romantic dinners and special tokens of admiration for each other and florists gain huge profits as everyone searches for a way to express love. A closer examination of the word reveals it is recognized as a noun with no less than 14 definitions, as a verb with 8 definitions and as an idiom with 6 different uses. “Love” tops the list of most powerful and influential words of all time with its multiple meanings, different interpretations and most importantly, the velocity of its use in our daily lives. For me, however, I find its beauty in the simplicity of its transformational power as a verb, or action, observed in the lives of others.
Selfish to Selfless
Consider the love of a mother, fervent, protective, and unrelenting. Motherhood instantly transforms us from selfish to selfless from the minute we lay our eyes on our children. Instinctively, our love for our children has no limits willing us to become a better version of ourselves as we place another human’s needs above our own. Only my love for my children would propel me out of bed multiple times through a night for feedings or to help my sick or frightened child. Remarkably, the love a mother feels for her children never wavers. Even as my children have become adults, I find myself recklessly giving to my children beyond what is probably healthy. There is a pull a child has on a Mother’s heart, thoughts and identity that transforms us into amazingly selfless humans laying aside our own desires.
Prideful to Humble
Love also has an incredible power to change a prideful spirit to a humble spirit without any level of coercing, manipulating, or demanding. In fact, pride can be demolished in a matter of moments when an individual embraces and acts in love. This is observed when love gives way to another verb that is often coupled with it, forgiving. Only love and forgiveness have the power to transform a broken relationship. My mother was the best example of this type of love in my life. She had an admirable yet uncanny ability to regularly practice forgiveness. She refused to hold a grudge as she recognized the brokenness in people and chose love over bitterness.
Guarded to Uninhibited
Probably my favorite of love’s remarkable superpowers, is its unique ability to remove walls of inhibition, awakening a spirit of vulnerability within a person’s soul. I saw this in my husband when his beautiful baby grandson was placed in his arms. His usual business-like persona was immediately transformed as he began to coo and laugh into the eyes of our sweet little grandson. I remember my own father frolicking on the floor with my nieces and nephews in a way totally out of character. Or, perhaps, you have observed the bold actions of a young man declaring his love for the woman he intends to marry. Love has the power to unleash the stoic to a display of unabashed emotion.
Training Kids to use Love’s Superpowers
So, while the cards and gifts are a beautiful expression of the emotion connected to love, February is an opportunity to remind us to teach our children about the superpower love holds. Superpowers are not limited to superheroes in action packed blockbusters but are living inside each one of us and can be easily displayed with a little coercion. When we put love into action, it becomes a verb applied to our lives rather than a sentiment displayed in a card. Most importantly, action is a language a child understands best. For our part as parents, developing these traits in our children necessitates intentionality. Focus on developing in children superpowers like forgiveness, thoughtful giving, and the regular use of kind words.
As children learn to practice forgiveness, they are empowered for a lifetime benefitting from the healthy lifestyle of letting go of bitterness and embracing mercy. One of the best ways to teach children the power of forgiveness is to practice it on them. I have made many mistakes with my children over the years that include losing my temper, questioning motives, and placing blame on an innocent child. All of which were perfect opportunities to ask forgiveness and model for my children humility. Acknowledging failures to children is not easy but it helps them understand that everyone makes mistakes and forgiveness should be requested and given freely to develop and sustain lasting relationships.
Children can also be trained to exercise thoughtful giving which means recognizing other’s needs and offering help or giving unconditionally without being prompted, a beautiful expression of love in anyone but especially touching when seen in a child. This requires being attuned to opportunities that present themselves and having the courage to lead your children in the often-spontaneous acts of generosity. This might be a simple act of opening a door or picking up a dropped item. But it could also become a regular practice of offering rides, delivering meals, or providing for monetary needs. Once the habit is established children will often lead parents in the practice of thoughtful giving.
Finally, a favorite of mine is the spontaneous and joyful use of kind words to encourage and offer support. Children will feel empowered as they begin to implement this on a regular basis and see how it lifts peoples’ spirits. As a teacher, I loved to pour kind words onto my students by affirming unique qualities I observed in each of my students. The unexpected kind words would illicit a smile, a blush, or even a kind word in response. Seeing the good in others and affirming it can bring joy to both the giver and the receiver providing surprisingly happy moments throughout a day.
Remarkably, love exists in us all and transforms us to superheroes when we choose to practice it on a regular basis. February is a month to recognize the power of love living in each of us and to be reminded that when practiced, love gives our lives meaning beyond measure.