~ Magic Johnson
I can remember it vividly like it was yesterday. After a very difficult labour, emergency c-section and a week in the hospital, I was deemed “ready” to be released into the world of full-time motherhood. Terrified, my husband and I looked at each other as I was being discharged from the hospital thinking how are they even letting us leave with our son? Don’t they see that we are nowhere near “ready?” We don’t have the first clue about what we are doing and we are so terribly nervous! Plagued by insecurities and fears, we had no choice but to meet this challenge head on, as from here on out, we had a precious little guy counting on us for absolutely everything. No pressure! I cannot lie. It was a tremendous learning curve and it wasn’t easy, but Tyler survived and so has Shannon despite the fact that we had so much to learn and still do about this crazy thing called parenthood. I do not claim to have all the answers, yet through the highs and lows of this lifelong adventure, I have come to find out that there are really four key things that all kids need to thrive and be successful. Somehow I wish someone had enlightened me on this a bit sooner, yet looking at my kids today, I guess we didn’t do too bad at this parenting thing. So let’s take a look at what important things kids really need today.
The first important thing that all kids need is attention. When they are babies they obviously need constant attention to their every need, yet as they grow they become more independent. Although they are more independent, they still need our attention in different ways. They want to feel that they matter and that we can put aside our busy agendas and focus on just them. It is crucial to carve out quality time that involves them in the spotlight so we can nurture our relationships further and let them know they are a priority. Years ago I saw a commercial where a mom was headed to the beach with her family and she got an important phone call. She went on to explain to her disappointed family that she would not be joining them after all, as she had to meet with a client instead. At the height of frustration, her three year old daughter says “Mom, when do I get to be a client?” Ouch! We all have busy lives and work, stress and other obligations can dominate a lot of our time, yet I cannot tell you how critical it is to make time for your kids and their interests to emphasize to them how much they matter to you.
The next important thing kids need is affection. Kids not only need to be shown affection through such things as meaningful touch, acts of service, or receiving gifts, but they need to hear how much we love them from our lips often. Just like with our spouses, it is not enough to think that people already now we love them, we need to tell them too. The time they often most need to hear it too is when they have acted out, disobeyed or caused stress in the family. They need to know that our love for them is unconditional and we will stand by them. My mom used to have a little gesture she would do with us that involved hand squeezing. She would often grab our hands lovingly and give them three squeezes standing for “I love you.” It was a creative way of showing love and I have done this with my kids as well.
Kids also need affirmation. They need to hear what it is about them that makes you crazy about them and why you appreciate them. Compliment your children often. Let them know that you are extremely proud of them and proud to call them your son or daughter. Recognize when they have used good judgment. Encourage them when they are discouraged. Help them to see that mistakes in life are great learning opportunities and you believe that they have the skills to be successful in life. Let them know that there is no problem too big that you cannot solve together. Knowing that others believe in them is so crucial. It is often the very thing kids need to step out of the boat and take a risk. Children need to know we are in their corner and we are ready to cheer them on!
Finally kids need unconditional acceptance. They need to know that we love them just because of who they are, not because of anything they have or have not done. I have counseled many adults who are still carrying scars from their past regarding how they were constantly trying to win the approval of their parents, yet sadly always fell short some how. When kids know they are accepted as they are, mistakes and all, they will feel free to come to us when they fail or desire some much needed advice. Kids need to know in no uncertain terms that there is nothing they could do that would make us love them any less or any more. They are loved and accepted as they are simply because they are ours.
God is the ultimate Father. He exemplifies all these attributes with perfection. He loves us with an everlasting love and sees beyond our faults and imperfections. Despite our shortcomings and problems, He desires to have a relationship with us and will forgive us over and over again as a good parent should. Many people have said to me when I actually straighten around my life a bit, then I might see what God can do. This is actually the wrong approach as God takes us as we are and helps us transform into all we have imagined we could ever be if we are willing to let him be our loving Heavenly Father.
You may be reading this and be feeling quite confident. You may feel like despite some mistakes along that way that you have done quite well in these areas of parenting. If that is you, that is wonderful and please keep up the good work. On the contrary you may read this and feel defeated as you reflect on how you need to improve as a parent. If you are feeling this way, please know there are no perfect parents and we all can do better in this area. It is never too late to start over with your children and to strive to be a better parent. Admitting our mistakes to our children and setting goals to do better is very liberating. Change is possible and very worthwhile. Our children and our relationships with them are one of God’s most precious gifts He had given us. Let’s give them the attention, affection, affirmation and acceptance they need and so deserve. Trust me there is no greater investment!
From one parent to another,
Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Little Lesson Learned: Being the best parent you can be is one of the best goals you can set in life.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014