It can be overwhelming trying to discern what your kids need most but there is a way to narrow it down to the absolute best things.
Today there are so many voices telling us what our kids need. Or telling us that if we want to be “good parents,” we have to provide_____.
From opportunities to extracurricular activities to the latest technology to stuff (hip shoes, a car, a trip.). The list goes on and on and guess what? It will never stop growing.
It’s easy for us to fall prey to parental peer pressure. Her child is on a travel sports team, but we don’t have the luxury to do that. Her child is involved in more activities outside of school. Her child has a special tutor for college prep. When we compare ourselves to that other parent, we seem to fall short. And when we experience sadness or even bitterness from our child, we feel even worse. We don’t like to disappoint.
What makes this hard is that most of the opportunities are good. It’s far easier to say “no” to something that is not good than it is to discern between good and best.
So, what do our kids really need from us?
Consider these 4 things your kids need most:
- They need to know they are not first.
OK, this sounds strange. Particularly in our child-oriented society. However, our child’s security grows not when they get whatever they want but when they intuitively know that Mom and Dad are in charge. Parents may say “no.” A child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure. God did not intend for that child to have that much authority over his or her parents. Consider a strong-willed 4-year-old. One who is rarely told “no.” She stomps her foot and says, I have to, I want to, I need to…”
Underneath her demands is the desire to control and this is unhealthy. A child who consistently gets his way is most likely to grow into a spouse who demands his way, ignoring the wishes of his spouse.
So what do we as parents do?
We let our children know that in our home God is first. We attempt to live according to His truths as revealed in the scriptures. We spend personal time in His word. We care for our neighbor even if it is inconvenient. We are called to serve.
If we are married our marriage relationship comes second. It takes priority over the parent-child relationship. Too many couples put their children first and neglect their marriage. Often these marriages fall apart in the empty nest. They have not been nurtured along the way and when the children leave home there is not much left. Much of a child’s security comes from knowing his parents’ relationship is secure.
2. They need consistency.
Consistency is often hardest in discipline. How do we balance love and discipline? Love and discipline are not opposites, they are partners. Both are crucial. Our kids need to know that “no” means “no” and not “maybe if you pitch a fit.” They need clear expectations and reasonable consequences that are enforced. Parents should agree on a discipline philosophy, or a smart child will go to the most lenient parent causing confusion and division. Do not let your kids divide you. Come to a parental agreement in private.
Love is the other half of consistency. Your child needs to know that you will always love him no matter what. And you will always be there for him. Your love is not dependent on his performance. As your children reach their teen years it is wise to have more discussions about why you have the policies that you do. Listen to your kids. Explain your reasoning. (It’s ok if they don’t agree.) Respect them.
3. They need respect and love for God’s word.
Ok, but how do we help that happen?
First and foremost, pray that they will develop a love for His word. The main thing I’ve always prayed for my children and now my grandchildren is that they would fall in love with the word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105). They are going to need to rely on His word for truth, training, and encouragement. His word (not ours) is the one thing that lasts. “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of God lasts forever.” (Isaiah 40:8).
If you are spending time in God’s word every day your kids may soak in how important this is. Read the Bible to them. Show them verses that you like and explain why. Give them a Bible to mark up. Insist that they be involved in a strong fellowship particularly as they reach middle school and high school. In these years they will need to hear truth from someone other than mom or dad.
4. They need perspective.
All of us lack perspective. It’s so easy for our problems, fears, and failures to become larger in our heads than our God. Perhaps our child doesn’t make the team or get into his college choice. His girlfriend breaks up with him. He’s devastated and you are for him. But contrary to these feelings, his life is not over. God is still in charge. He has a plan, and He is still working while we are waiting.
As a teen, I was not in the popular crowd nor was I “cool.” I was taller than all the boys, clumsy, and a jock. And my SATS were low. I remember crying to my mother, “I’m not popular. No one likes me. I’m a failure.”
My wise mother did not overreact; she hugged me and simply said, “Susan, your Dad and I think you are wonderful.” Then she said, “Your turn will come.” What she gave me in that sentence was hope. I had no perspective.
It’s easy for anyone of any age to lose perspective. Every parent will at different times feel, I have ruined my child. We lose perspective over our mistakes! We have to remember, my ability to ruin my child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him or her.
These 4 things are not exhaustive. There are others. However, overall, rests the power of love. Love doesn’t always mean approval. Approval is fickle. Love is far stronger than that.
I remember being curled up in my Dad’s lap when he said,
“Susan, I love you so much.”
“Why Daddy?” I asked
“Just because you are mine,” he responded.
It wasn’t because I was good. I was the strong-willed eldest of four kids, challenging to raise. No, it was simply because I belonged to him.
His affectionate hugs and verbal assurance gave me security and has made it easier for me to picture a heavenly Father who loves me even more.
May we give this same sense of unconditional love to our kids.
Check out Susan’s books: And Then I Had Kids, Encouragement for Mothers of Young Children. (Best for new moms or parents of children up to age 5.)
Raising Kids With Values that Last (Best for Parents with kids ages 5-college.)
Both books are designed to be used in small groups and are available on Amazon.
100 Ways to Love to Your Son/Daughter
You love your son and daughter–but that doesn’t mean you always know the most effective ways to show that love, ways that will connect with their hearts, and stick with them no matter what life throws their way.
These practical books by the authors of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife and 100 Ways to Love Your Husband give you 100 specific, actionable ideas you can implement to show love to your children, no matter what age they are.
The best part? The short, bite-sized readings make it easy to start right now!