Tell kids you LIKE them… it means more to them than “I love you.”

Many years ago, I was visiting with family and having fun tussling with one of my nephews who was about seven years old at the time. He was a kid I only got to see a few times a year, but we were pretty close. One of our favorite games was “Pillow Monster.” I would pile pillows on top of him while he was on the couch, and then “attack” the pile of pillows. I would “never notic” that he had escaped from under the pile as I trashed the pillows, jumping up and down on them pretending I was attacking him. He would laugh hysterically completely unaware that I could hear him behind me, knowing he wasn’t under the pile of pillows. Then, he would cover me in pillows and jump on the pillows, but of course, I wouldn’t be able to escape! It always ended in an exhausted heap of hugs to watch TV or something more relaxing.

One time as we settled down to catch our breath, I blurted out, “Michael, I love you.” His response surprised me but had a profound impact on me. He said, “Uncle Karl, of course you love me. You’re my uncle. You have to love me. But do you like me?” I was stunned. My statement of love meant nothing to him. My love was assumed. Of course I replied, “What do you mean, silly? I course I like you! I like you to the moon and back! You’re the best kid ever!” But his words stuck with me and changed how I communicated with kids from that day forward. It gave me an insight into kids that I’m thankful to Michael for, to this day, decades later.

Do we love the kids we minister to? Of course! Do we have to? Not really. Some of them aren’t always that loveable, quite honestly. But we are commanded to, and kids do expect our love. That said, liking kids is completely optional. And they know it.

Think about it – how many of your own relatives do you love… but not necessarily like? Let’s be real here – there can be people in our lives that we love that we don’t really like that much. “Love is a choice,” we always say, right? Well, so is “like”.

So, the next time you are hanging out with kids, or thanking a guest for visiting, or wishing a kid a happy birthday, or dealing with a discipline situation, or simply playing a game, be sure to say, “You know what? I like you. You are one cool kid.” (And be sure to tell your own kid you like them too.) Your kids know you love them. They need to know you like them too.

…his words stuck with me and changed how I communicate with kids from that day forward. It gave me an insight into kids that I’m still thankful for decades later.

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