Whatever you want your children to cherish and tuck deeply into their hearts must be something that is an intentional part of their lives every day, every season. Loving one another, as adults find out in marriage quickly enough, is a choice, not a feeling. Honor given to another is an attitude of humility and respect that is trained into a young child and practiced over many years. So, those who cultivate love and respect find it blooming more than those who leave it unattended.
Consequently, if you want to have children who know what it means to exhibit generous, unconditional love, you must help them practice loving every day. When my children were young, at regular intervals, I would give them practical ways that we would practice love and giving encouragement to others.
First, we had studied our 24 Family Ways and memorized them and learned the verses.
"We treat one another with kindness, gentleness and respect," was one of the ways that our children heard and wrote over and over again, so that this principle became a pathway in their brain.
Then, I would create ways, over the years, to help them practice taking the initiative to extend their words and actions of love towards others they cherished.
Once, we made a list of 20 people that were special to our family. Together, we spent a whole day baking--cookies, bread, cinnamon rolls. While we waited for them to bake, I provided doilies, markers, paper, ribbon and glue and we spent the day crafting "I love you, I am so thankful you are my friend," and "I appreciate you and thank God for you," cards. Each was of the kids own making and each child chose one of the 20 to present his card to.
Finally, we all gathered our plates of goodies, ribboned and carded, and placed them gingerly in the car, and we were off. It took us 4 hours to deliver them to all of the homes of those we had chosen to "give our words of love to," and it delighted and filled all of my precious ones with memories of how much a tiny thoughtful gift can mean to someone who needs to hear the words, "I love you."
The patterns practiced are a part of who my children perceive themselves to be now as adults--lovers of others. The habit of being thoughtful was a learned value, having practiced it regularly. The fruit is a soul that emanates love, from being planted by seeds of intention and carried out by cultivating and watering those seeds with deeds of kindness, led by a mother who gave her time.