Three Things Every Child Needs
As a teacher for 24 years of a great range of children—from inner city to the affluent, from immigrants to the privileged, from urban city to the suburbs—I discovered that all children are the same. Whatever their ethnic background, socioeconomic status, or gender, they all desire the same three things.
Parents usually wish to provide every possible convenience and trinket to their children, believing it will make them happy. Of course, we all know children can thrive without the fancy toys or latest fashion trend. And I’m sure that statement makes you happy because mothers especially wear themselves down worrying about what they can’t afford or run themselves ragged trying to deliver every item their child demands.
Children truly cannot, however, excel without these three key elements that parents need to supply:
1. Unconditional love.
Love for our children should not be based on any expectations, performance, or behavior. Love them totally and completely with no strings attached. They are part of us and reside in our heart. Children need to be assured that nothing will change your love for them. Oftentimes we may not like their behavior or are extremely disappointed in a choice they made. Yes, they should suffer the consequences for conduct and decisions, but through their journey, they should never doubt that you love them for them. Withholding love as a reaction to their poor choices is not acceptable parenting. Provide punishment, but don’t use penalties such as silent treatment or berating comments. After imparting discipline, hug them and tell them you love them. Continually reassure them that your love holds strong through all circumstances.
Whether they are two or twenty-two years of age, children should be treated with respect. For smaller children, kneel or get down on their level and look them in the eye when talking to them. With older children, listen to them and value their opinion. It’s okay to disagree and explain your perspective, but don’t yell or berate. Talk in a calm, controlled manner when disciplining. Have conversations, ask questions, and try to understand their viewpoint. It gives your children value. It’s like the old adage we heard from our moms: Treat others the way you want to be treated—and that includes your children.
Sometimes it is hard to draw the line in the sand and keep your children on the correct side. They love to place their toe right on the line; some go leaping over it with no thought. It’s difficult to discipline because it hurts us more than it hurts them, but children need and want boundaries. Decide what is acceptable and not acceptable, make the rules, and then set the fence in place. Your children can roam and play and do life within these boundaries, but when they venture outside the guidelines, there have to be consequences. Children need structure. They become confused if the fence continually moves back, then forward, or even disappears. It causes insecurity and reinforces negative behavior. Part of setting boundaries includes “No means no.” If a certain behavior is “no” today, then it has to be “no” tomorrow. If they’re grounded for a week, then follow through to the very end and don’t give in after one day, even though it’s punishment for you, too. Amen? Besides teaching them great lessons and providing a safe place to grow, you are instilling reassurance and confidence.
Moms, on the days that your children are driving you crazy or acting like some heathen you didn’t raise, stay strong by expressing love, showing respect, and setting boundaries. Your children will be the better for it.