Love is a pretty wonderful thing. We look for it throughout life. We long for it. And once we have kids, we can’t help but feel it. Yep, a pretty wonderful thing. While we celebrate love this month, let’s remember that there are many ways to show it. Kisses, hugs and declarations of love are super, but they aren’t the only ways to show someone that you care.

I would argue that setting boundaries for them and helping them feel safe is a great way to show them your love (think of it as nouveau-swaddling for toddlers and big kids).In her book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, author Wendy Mogel identified parenting as ⅓ love, ⅓ law and ⅓ sitting on your hands. Does this ratio seem right to us these days, when being involved in our kids’ lives and building their self-confidence with our love and understanding are seemingly paramount in our parenting roles? Enforcing rules and structure often makes parents nervous, questioning whether our children might think we don’t love them as we discipline them. We might appear mean or hard or unfeeling. Sitting on our hands while our children struggle with things is another sometimes questionable practice. Wanting to smooth their way and help them is a completely natural extension of the love and care that we feel for them. It’s easy to contemplate loving our kids, but backing off and setting limits are more difficult to do.

I can certainly understand our hesitation to embrace this idea, but I must say that the “⅓’s rule” is really all about love.

parenting advice: what is the rule of thirds?

If you have ever met a kid who is being shown a lot of love, but not a lot of law, what does his life look like? Is he overwhelmed by his own desires? Does he think that he’s the center of not just his parents’ lives, but the whole world? Does he make demands? Does he have trouble compromising with his friends? Do strangers find him rude? Does he take advantage of people?

Have you ever met a kid whose parents show her a lot of love, but do not “sit on their hands” as often as they should? What does her life look like? Is she scared of things that her peers are not scared of? Does she expect help from adults with relatively simple tasks? Is she disorganized? Not good at taking care of her own things? How does she handle responsibility? Does she try something on her own before throwing up her hands in frustration?

Parenting Advice: Rule of Thirds - (cool) progeny

how do you show your child that you love them?

There are many ways to show your child that you care about them. And I would argue that setting boundaries for them and helping them feel safe is a great way to show them your love (think of it as nouveau-swaddling for toddlers and big kids). In the same way, allowing them to try and fail while you “sit on your hands” and let them experience life, shows them that you trust them to figure things out and dust themselves off when they fall. You can always be there for them as a safe  harbor, but showing them that you believe in them (!) is another great way to show your love.

So I challenge you to show some love, lay down some law… and sit on your hands a bit this month.