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How to educate your child’s heart

Blend images - Shutterstock

Our children’s emotions should matter more to us than their knowledge of geography or math.

When we talk about the education of children, we often concentrate on their intellectual formation, or maybe on the development of the skills and essential virtues needed for the formation of their character. However, we often forget one of the most important components of education in the family: education of the heart.

Aristotle said that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” But, what do we mean when we speak of educating the heart? In short, it means educating in love and for love. It also means that our children’s emotions should matter more to us than their knowledge of geography or mathematics, because it is these emotions that will serve as a driving force for their personal development and that will lead them to happiness.

How exactly do we educate our children’s hearts?

1. Understand that the home is a school of love: Our way of interacting with one other, the acceptance and appreciation shown between parents and siblings, and frequent and appropriate expressions of affection, are all ways of teaching how to love. Our home should be a place of warmth where everyone feels welcomed and loved. It is very difficult to educate the hearts of children who do not feel personally accepted or loved in their own home, or who perceive that they live in a loveless household.

2. Educate their affectivity: Our affectivity is composed of the varied feelings and emotions we experience. It is necessary to teach our children to recognize them, to properly name them, and to understand what they are feeling. We must also teach them to manage their emotions, to express them in a positive manner, and to control their reactions to what they are feeling. This will help them develop a healthy affectivity in which feelings are recognized, valued, and channeled.

3. Teach them to get out of themselves: Love necessarily requires giving of oneself to others. It is essential that our children be taught to recognize the needs of those around them, so they can help them when needed, and feel the satisfaction of reaching out to other people. Only a heart that is capable of going out of itself is capable of loving, and this is the most important lesson our children need to learn in order to learn how to love. Let’s take advantage of all available opportunities to help them live this self-giving from a first-person perspective — as it is personal experience that truly educates our hearts.

4. Educate in freedom: Finally, the ability to love is linked to freedom. Only someone who wills to love will love. This is why the more we educate our children to use their freedom well and to fulfill their responsibility to direct their lives towards the good, the more capable they will be of loving, because they will want to love! And that is certainly true love.

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and adapted here for English-speaking readers.

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