Ask your child or grandchild this question:  “When do you think I love you more?  When you are fussing and fighting with your brother or sister, when you talk back and disobey, and when you get into trouble at school?  Or, when you have been keeping your room clean, getting your homework done without being asked, and bringing home good grades?  When do you think I love you the most?”

How would they answer? 

Many of us probably feel quite confident that our children would say, “You love me just the same in all those situations.  I know that you can be upset with me at times and disapprove of my behavior.  You may even punish me sometimes for my actions.  But, I always know that you still love me, even when I disappoint you.  I don’t confuse your approval with your love.  I know that your love for me isn’t conditioned upon my performance, whether good or bad.”  It’s not likely that your 8-year-old would use those exact words, but you get the idea.

We would like to think that we have done a sufficiently effective job of communicating our unconditional love to our children.  Yet, if 20 years of parenting has taught me anything, it is that my perceptions do not always reflect reality, and what I think I have said is often not what was heard.

So, go ahead and ask them the question, and brace yourself for the possible answers.  Regardless of their response, it is a great opportunity to reaffirm your love.  And that is something that simply can’t be done too often.

“Sweetie, I just want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt…”

“Son, just in case I haven’t told you…”