“Listening to Our Little Ones,” Ensign, Dec. 1994, 40
“Did I tell you enough times how much I love you, my son?” I silently wondered. As my husband and I sat in the intensive-care unit at the hospital, we prayed for the life of our eldest child, Joel. I held his thin, cold hand in mine, listening to machines keeping him alive and weeping at the thought that perhaps I hadn’t done enough to let him know of my love. Most of all, I wanted to tell him once more, “I love you.”
I don’t know how many times I have expressed my love for Joel since his life was spared. Our family members now show love for one another more often and more easily—both in word and in deed. We try to not miss a chance to express our affection.
This sobering reminder of how fleeting life is served to remind us of the importance of showing our children how much we love them—especially given the great joy and security children experience in knowing they are loved.
The Savior, our exemplar in all things, showed his love for children during his ministry among the Nephites in the land Bountiful. “He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
“And when he had done this he wept “ (3 Ne. 17:21–22).
Unfortunately, the Savior’s love for what he called our “little ones” (3 Ne. 17:23) contrasts with the treatment some children receive. Too many choice children saved for this generation know only pain, agony, and frustration. For them, the joy of childhood is cut short.
One of our challenges as parents is that the pace of modern life makes it easy to forget the importance of slowing down and viewing the world from our children’s perspective. Yet we can remember that children come into the world sinless, full of love and the spirit of Christ (see Moro. 8:12). They have things to teach us, especially about love, if we will but tune our hearts to them.
Sister Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president, has said, “If we would listen more, we could discover how to be successful with [our children]. They are more likely to listen to us when they know they are listened to and understood. Listen with your heart” (Ensign, Apr. 1994, p. 62).
Approximately 150 Primary children from throughout the world were recently asked by Church leaders how they know that their parents love them. As evidence of parental love, nearly all cited the simple gifts of self that are bought with time, service, and affection. Only a few mentioned expensive presents. One child, echoing the response of many Primary children, answered, “Because my parents teach me. They read scriptures with me so I can learn about Jesus.”
Ten-year-old Benjamin Durand, who attends the Toulouse First Ward in Toulouse, France, says he knows his parents love him because they hold family home evening. “They read scriptures and stories to me, and they play basketball, soccer, and rugby with me.”
Branch member Vanessa Warcollier, age nine, knows her parents love her because they often express their love. “They are nice to me, they help me, and they hug me,” she says.
“I know my parents love me because they take good care of me,” adds Lauri-Anne Cuvelier, age eleven.
Nine-year-old Emmanuele Dimauro and six-year-old Mariella Louisa Pugliesi of the Catania Branch in Catania, Italy, know they are loved because their parents make time for them. “We play together,” says Louisa. “They show me their love,” adds Emmanuele, “and they always sit next to me.”
Ten-year-old Sheila Peon Prendes of the Gijon Branch in the Spain Bilbao Mission, says, “I know my parents love me because they take care of me, they feed me, they play with me, they teach me, they take me to the chapel, and they read the scriptures to me.”
Her seven-year-old brother, Omar Peon Prendes, says, “They help me with my homework. They give me hugs and kisses. They discipline me when I don’t behave.”
Seven-year-old Julio Inocensio of the Cuernavaca (Mexico) Ward isn’t surprised by his parents’ love. “When they were little, their parents gave them love too,” he says.
Raul Valladares Perez, age ten, says, “I know they love me because they help me with all my problems. They give me a lot of love and respect.” And Israel Ramiriz, age ten, says he knows his parents love him “because when I am sad they make me feel better. And when I act bad, they still love me anyway.”
Ten-year-old Carlos Tirado, who attends the Spanish branch in Hartford, Connecticut, knows his parents love him because “we pray together.” Sheri Guisinger, age nine, of the Kent Third Ward in Kent, Washington, knows because “they tell me in their testimonies.”
Eleven-year-old Jamie Crozier, from the Jerome (Idaho) First Ward, attributes parental love to the fact that her parents “put up with some of the things I do that I really shouldn’t do, and they teach me that what I did was wrong.”
Lars Christiansen, a nine-year-old in the same ward’s Primary, knows his parents love him because “my heart tells me.”
Children know we love them when we treat them as children of God and do those things the Lord requires of parents.
“Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil. …
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:14–15; emphasis added).
Children learn love and service from their parents. We who have been entrusted with sons and daughters have a sacred duty, “for we are the ones God has appointed to encircle today’s children with love and the fire of faith and an understanding of who they are” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, Apr. 1994, p. 60).
If we need ideas on how best to live up to those sacred responsibilities, we need merely listen to our precious little ones.