If asked, “Do you love your children?” most parents without hesitation would reply, “Yes, I love my children!” Most parents probably do think that they love their children. However, when we examine the true definition of love, we might find ourselves falling short in this area.

If we examine definitions of love, we find that the 13th chapter of I Corinthians in the Bible lists the qualities present when there is love. One of those qualities listed is patience.

Do we have patience with our children? In the hurry and scurry of everyday living, we can easily expect too much too soon from those around us. It is not easy to wait for children to develop skills and make decisions at their own pace. We sometimes forget that we cannot force a flower to bloom. With plants, we water, nourish, and prune but the growth comes from within the plant. So it is with children. We nourish, and prune (discipline) and provide experiences and advice, but we cannot force the child to grow. That growth comes from within the child.

Unfortunately, some parents have a fixed image in mind of what they want the child to be when he/she grows up. We have all heard of the football player who wants a son to be a football star, etc. In such a situation, the parent may be very impatient and take out his own disappointment on the child. We need to realize that certain traits are inherent in children at birth. Again, using gardening as an example, we cannot change a carrot to a radish; we can only try to develop a better carrot or radish. With children, we need to cultivate those good tendencies or skills that came with them at birth. We waste time and cause much frustration when we try to force children to be something other than what they are capable of. We need to be patient as we help them develop into what their Creator designed them for.

It is important in the matter of discipline to be able to discern the difference between a mistake and intentional belligerence. We would be naïve to think that children are born with only good intentions. Intentional belligerence requires immediate discipline. Mistakes of a child, on the other hand, require our patience and teaching. Probably every child needs admonition at one time or another. When our children are intentionally naughty, even though we must discipline them, we need to be patient in understanding that they are no different from other kids in that respect. We should never make a child feel that there is no hope for improvement. I’ve known some parents who seem to really just grind their children down until the child feels there is no hope. Our patience with them gives hope. Without hope, children may either give up or become rebellious.

We can’t expect children to be as accomplished as we are. We have several years of learning ahead of them. When they seem awkward and break things, it may be because they are growing longer arms and legs and haven’t learned to adjust to the extra size yet. When they don’t make the right decisions, it may be because they haven’t acquired all the facts and understanding they need to make those decisions.

Patience is more than a virtue. Patience is an indication of real love.