Often, when a child is spoiled and undisciplined, people attribute it to the parent giving them “too much love.” But this is a misconception.

Sure, the parents who shower their children with gifts and who are lenient toward them may seem to be loving. However, both gifts and leniency are not love. Instead they’re shoddy love-like-things that replace actual love.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s perfectly fine to give your child gifts or slacken the rules every once in a while. For instance, you can give them a pricey book from their favorite author for their birthday. Or, perhaps, allow them to stay up past bedtime when they have their cousins over to visit. However, these things must remain occasional treats to give them breaks from their routine every once in a while.

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Love is gentle, love is firm

True love, however, is not made up of just happiness and grand gestures. True, these things are important. However, they must also come with a good dose of reality.

Love also comes with giving your child sanctions when they’ve made a mistake. If they’ve bullied another kid from next door, true love is being stern with your child, telling them to apologize and warning them never to do it again. After all, if you make excuses for them, they will only become a bigger bully. If you choose to make them go through the uncomfortable option, they become a kinder and better person.

Love is giving your child your precious time instead of material possessions. Perhaps you think it’s harmless to give them an expensive toy to make up for being away for their birthday. Maybe that’s fine if done occasionally. If done frequently, however, they may begin to equate love with material possessions. As you can imagine, this can be disastrous.

Love is telling your child to study hard for their next exam because it’s important that they pass. This is not necessarily because you want to pressure them into success. Instead, it’s because you want to make schoolwork an opportunity for self-discipline.

Or, perhaps, more concretely, love is making your child eat their vegetables. If they were to have their way, they might choose to have nothing but sweets. While giving them this instant gratification may be hassle-free and even satisfying, you know that it will lead to health problems in the long run. Teaching them to go the harder and more painful way, therefore, is the more loving choice.

Be hands-on

Love, therefore, requires a certain degree of involvement. It is important to be there for your children on a regular basis, to provide guidance and love. Even if you can’t be with them physically, make sure you find time to call them regularly to talk to them about how they’re doing.

In this way, love also becomes a bit of a sacrifice to you. A good parent occasionally has to turn down career opportunities to spend time with their children. We’re not saying to turn down all of them. But if someone asks for a dinner meeting on family night, it may not be wise to sacrifice family time for a virtual stranger.

Adam McCauley is the owner of Go No Sen Karate, with locations in Peekskill and Cortlandt Manor. Visit gonosen.com for more information.