Last Friday marked another milestone in our family of adult children. My middle daughter Sarah graduated this weekend from art school with a degree in ‘Image.’ (A focus in photography and videography as you probably guessed). I think her dream job would be to spend the rest of her life taking pictures of people’s pets. I keep trying to explain that animals will probably not pay the bills, but she has an authentic love and appreciation for any breed of canines.

You have to admit, dogs have a unique ability to make you feel like you matter when no one else in the world seems to care. They are confidential, uncritical and constant. I have watched all my kids grow up with dogs as faithful companions. There were times I got the sense that those dogs knew things I would never find out. A good dog over time can show you what devotion looks like. It’s interesting how the right pooch can seem to meet an intrinsic need that people have to feel loved.

Maybe that’s because we are all created to need LOVE. That means the kids and teenagers around you were also designed to love and be loved. So, you are in a unique position to demonstrate the incredible thing that LOVE over TIME can really do in the life of a kid.

That’s why LOVE over TIME happens to be the best strategy to help kids know they matter. When you love them consistently. When you show up in their life week after week to demonstrate they are a priority to you. When you love them faithfully in spite of their behavior or their performance.

LOVE over TIME does something amazing. Love over TIME is the best way to give a child WORTH. And here’s something else to consider:

Maybe love matters more in the life of a kid than it does in the life of an adult.

This past year, I had two friends both take their lives. One was 23. One was 48. They both shared a common dilemma. They didn’t know how to love themselves. They were both smart, attractive, determined people who tried really hard at life. But something was broken when they were young that stacked the odds against them. I’m not qualified to explain how or why.

But here’s a point to consider. Kids need to learn to love themselves while they’re kids. Kids desperately need adults who will love them in a way that will convince them that they are worth something when they are young. If kids don’t feel loved when they are young, they may never love themselves in healthy way. And if they never learn to love themselves, they may ultimately self-destruct.

So, the way you love kids while they’re kids can dramatically affect their future.
That’s why we need more adults to step it up and Play for Keeps.

It’s time to get serious about loving the children around you.

Most research seems to suggest the younger the recipient, the more powerful the impact. So prove to them that they are loved while you have the chance.

And also, keep this in the back of your mind: the window of time in their life as kids and teenagers is a critical opportunity for us to give them the sense of worth and value they will need to face life as adults. If you are showing up in the life of kid or teenager each week, then what you are doing is extremely important – just remember how you love them now will affect how they feel loved later.

When it comes to love, if we are playing for keeps, then every time you see a puppy playing with a child remember what love over time can do.

Follow the rest of the conversation on Playing For Keeps as Reggie, Kristen, and others talk about the 6 things every kid needs over time. You can start with the first part of the series about how Time Matters.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will continue to talk about how kids need Love, Words, Stories, Tribes, and Fun OVER TIME!