Teaching Kids About Love In A Culture That Redefines Words
Teaching kids about love requires thinking through an important subject - words and definitions.
When talking about words, I like to think of my friend Hillary from Mama Bear Apologetics. She has shared with me on several occasions that when she and her husband have disagreements they usually have to talk about definitions of words to settle their disagreements.
Once they pause and ask, “Well, what do you mean by this,” they often realize they’re arguing for the same thing. They're on the same team! They just had to take a minute to pause, and clarify the terms they're using.
If you’ve already taken the kids in your care through Foundation’s Careful Thinking Curriculum, you’ll already know that we spend several days diving deep into cultural terms to explore the traditional definition of words, the new definition of words, and how that word is being used in a particular instance.
This short guide on teaching kids about love is meant to equip you as parents to initiate conversations and teach your kids about biblical love.
How Do You Explain Love To A Child?
So what does teaching kids about love look like practically?
We know that this is a complicated concept because there are so many different viewpoints! First of all, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage in English-speaking communities because English really only has one word for love. Whereas other languages have many terms to describe what we often think of as love.
To make things simpler for our children, I like to put all other forms of love aside for the moment and focus on the highest form of love as described in the Bible. When we zero in on a biblical definition - then we’re on the right track!
We can start explaining love to our children by using the following steps as general guidelines.
1 - Explain The Biblical Definition of Love
Here’s a simple and clear biblical definition we can use to teach kids about love: Love is self-sacrificing for the good of another person. It’s about being willing to have harm come to ourselves in order to benefit another person.
We want to make sure that kids understand this definition. When the Bible talks about love and God's love for us it's talking about self-sacrificing for the benefit of another because God gave his only son for us.
2 - Ask About Biblical Examples of Love In Action
Then we can ask our kids about seeing examples of love in action. Someone sacrificing for the good of another person.
We should really take our time to talk through different examples that we’ve seen.
3 - Ask About Unbiblical Examples of Love In Action
Next, we should expose them to different ways love has been redefined in our culture.
Nowadays when people in the West use the term love, what they really mean is doing something that makes another person feel good. This cultural definition is about doing something that makes someone feel good even if it’s not best for that person. A supposedly “loving” action might even be lying to someone else! But that is still considered “love” because it makes the other person feel good.
This is an unbiblical view of love. We can explain this unbiblical definition to our children and then ask them:
"Are there any times when we’ve seen someone make another person feel good (thinking they were doing the right thing), but they wound up actually hurting that person?"
There are tons of examples of this. If we see a friend walking out in the middle of a dangerous road where they don’t see a car coming, it might hurt their feelings if we yell, “Get back over here!,” but ultimately we’re saving their life!
Even the youngest of children can see that there is a vast difference between these two definitions. Are our children willing to give of themselves or what is best for another person? Or do they solely focus on what is going to make another person feel good, whether or not it’s actually best for them? And what about us? Which definition of love do we live out?
Just like Hillary and her husband, we need to train our children to pause and clarify how the word we encounter are being used.
When we firmly ground our children in the biblical and unbiblical definitions of love and give examples of seeing these two definitions lived out, we have prepared them to discern the difference between true love and the false cultural substitute.
If you found this short guide helpful, please check out my webinar about pursuing truth in a culture that redefines words. I go through 3 intentional steps for equipping our kids to think carefully through the meaning of words (like love, faith and tolerance), and to carefully navigate then evaluate the culture around us.
One of these steps is to intentionally expose kids to different definitions of words!
About Elizabeth Urbanowicz
Elizabeth Urbanowicz is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about equipping kids to understand the truth of the Christian worldview. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Gordon College, an M.S.Ed. in Education from Northern Illinois University, and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Elizabeth spent the first decade of her professional career teaching elementary students at a Christian school. Elizabeth now works full time on developing comparative worldview and apologetics resources for children. Her goal is to prepare the next generation to be lifelong critical thinkers and, most importantly, lifelong disciples of Jesus.
Related Posts and insights
Teaching Our Kids About Using Emotions and Discernment
Our children will repeatedly encounter this idea that their feelings are the most reliable guide for truth. How can we equip them to rightly recognize their emotions, without being led by them? Here are a couple of ways we can intentionally prepare our children to make decisions based on discernment rather than pure emotion.