Christian Parenting and Family Resources with Biblical Principles

Build Strong Bonds with Your Kids through Affection

  • Dr. Gary Smalley The Smalley Relationship Center
  • 2006 3 Apr
Build Strong Bonds with Your Kids through Affection

As my children have grown, I have seen the fruit of consistent tenderness in their lives. My family is used to being hugged. Sometimes my twenty-four-year-old Kari will grab her brother Michael, nineteen, and give him a big kiss. Mike puts up a big front and mimics a little bush being sprayed with insecticide. But he loves it and even expects it. We've trained our kids to expect it. It's so normal and natural they don't feel awkward about it. My boys can hug me in any context.

I was at Michael's high school campus a couple of years ago speaking to a class and happened to bump into Mike in the hall with a group or his friends. He threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug. Rather than being embarrassed or scornful, it was obvious that several of his friends were envious of that sort of relationship.

When my kids come into contact with friends at school and camps who never get hugged in their homes, they're always encouraging me to "go talk to the parents." What they've experienced in their home life seems normal. Yet the absence of that kind of tenderness can be abnormal.

Don't imagine that all of this has come easily or naturally to me! I came from a non-touching home and can't remember being hugged by my dad. Even after I became a Christian and learned that a soft answer turns away anger (Proverbs 15:1) and that a key fruit of the Spirit is "gentleness" (Galatians 5:23), I had never applied either principle in my most important relationship.

Since I wasn't fortunate enough to have a father who knew how to be tender to his wife, I wasn't aware that softness and meaningful touch during stressful times was even an option until several years into my marriage. That's when I became aware that one of a person's greatest needs is to be comforted, especially during those moments when life seems to be unraveling.

We pray you won't withhold this important aspect of honor from a child the way Jan's father did. When Jan was twelve and had just moved to a new school, she felt lost and confused.

"My need for my dad to hug me and tell me everything was going to be all right was so strong during this time, I actually jumped into his lap one night like I was a little kid."

"'Get off me!' he screamed, and threw me off onto the floor. I landed flat on my back, and he shouted at me, 'Don't you ever do that again!' and stormed out of the room."

Is such a response easily forgotten?

"It's been over twenty years since that happened, and I can still see and feel vividly what happened."

One vital truth we've learned and seen repeated in our lives and the lives of other is this: Remaining tender during a trial is one of the most powerful ways to build an intimate relationship (James 1:19-20).

Most people's usual pattern during times of crisis or high anxiety is to lash out or lecture—or both—especially if the problem is caused by somebody else's mistake. But tenderness and consistent physical reassurance transforms and energizes those around us.

© Copyright 2002 Smalley Relationship Center