How to Love Your Kids When You Don't Even Like Them Much

Six tips for loving your kids even when they're unwashed and underfoot.

Posted May 19, 2020

Eric Maisel
Rethinking Mental Health
Source: Eric Maisel

Home a lot with your kids these days? Is everybody getting on everybody’s nerves? Not sure you even like anybody in your family right about now? You’re not alone!

Here comes your shambling, uncouth, uncommunicative teenager, the one who goes off on you if you tell him anything, whether it’s how his current grades will affect his chances of getting into the college of his choice or that he smells. Not only don’t you like the sight of him, but living with him is a little like living in a war zone.

How can you love him when you don’t even like him much? Here are some tips:

1. The love comes from you. Love is a verb. To love your child, you need to generate the love as if you were the sun. Picture yourself as a love generator! Generate some warmth, some enthusiasm, some curiosity, some love. Don’t be a cold, dark star. Be the sun!

2. Substitute “I love him” when you hear yourself saying, “I don’t like him very much.” Actively do that substituting. You are in charge of your thoughts and one way to prove that you are in charge of your thoughts it to take charge of them. Do you want to be thinking “I don’t like him” or do you want to be thinking “I love him?" It’s your choice.

3. Do something together that you know works. Maybe popping popcorn and watching a movie is a sure bet. Then do that twice a day! Maybe this isn’t a moment to worry about overdoing things that are a little indulgent or that break the rules. Maybe doing something enjoyable together is what matters most right now.

4. Turn off your critical eye—or at least blink. Yes, there is plenty to criticize, about him, about you, about everybody. But there being plenty to criticize isn’t a reason to criticize. Would you like to be criticized for all the ways that you aren’t perfect? I sincerely doubt it. Out of love, and because it’s just a good idea, pull back on the criticism.

5. Remember him as an infant and a toddler, when he was cute! Pull out some pictures or some videos. Refresh your memory. He really was cute once! And he may be cute again—say, in 15 years. To put this another way: This really is “just a stage.” A time is most likely bound to come when he actually will want to take a shower and get up before noon.

6. Continue to make the demands you need to make—about helping out, about not being mean to the other kids, about doing his online homework—but try to make them from as loving a place as you can muster. You know it doesn’t pay to get angry—that only makes you feel bad afterward. Make the demands you need to make, but still try to be loving!

It is only in fairy tales that parents like their children all the time. In fact, I’m not even sure there are fairy tales like that, so preposterous is that idea. It is too preposterous an idea even for fairy tales! The truth is, we all get on each other’s nerves, we all harbor some resentments towards the people in our family, we all can—and do—find things to be critical about when it comes to family members.

So, we must acknowledge all that—and bring the love anyway. Because, isn’t that also the truth, that we want to love the people close to us? Don’t we really much prefer that to bickering? In the end, we really do!

Try out the above tips. If you’d like to learn more about how to deal with common parenting issues, please take a look at our program for parents called Raising Sane Kids in a Crazy World.