By: Shannon Ralph
I readily admit to being a parent who does not have all the answers. Or most of the answers. Okay, some days I cannot even manage to scrape together a single, rudimentary answer. I am winging it just like you.
At times, I find it really hard not to focus on all the many splendored ways in which I am failing my children.
My kids eat hot dogs. A lot of hot dogs. And often in front of the television. And when I can’t even bring myself to boil a hot dog, we have cereal for dinner. Or we eat out.
I don’t cook breakfast. Ever. Pop Tarts are de rigueur around here. I allow too much video game time. Too much television time. I’ve been known to skip baths because I am tired or I have a headache or I just don’t feel up to it. My kids eat candy between meals. I curse in front of them. We don’t go to church. I spend too much time on my phone. I don’t particularly enjoy playing board games with my kids. Or stuffed animals. Or the Easy Bake Oven. I am not crafty. I take sarcasm too far. I don’t scrapbook. I don’t put photos of my children in albums. Heck, I don’t even print the pictures!
Sometimes I wonder how my children will ever manage to survive having me as a parent.
Then I think about my own parents. Were they perfect? No. Were they infallible? Far from it. Did they feed me hot dogs? More times than I care remember. And I survived. Hell, I even thrived.
What did my parents do right? What did they provide to me that helped me become a successful person? What can I provide to my own children to help them overcome my imperfections as a parent?
Below are the seven things I have concluded—through years of contemplation and gut-wrenching guilt—that all children need. Every. Single. Day. If you supply your children with the following every day, everything else will fall into place.
- Affection – Children need to be touched. Touch is important to building healthy attachment. Touch makes a child feel safe and comfortable. Like Bruce Springsteen professed in his classic song—everybody needs “just a little of that human touch.” It is my job as a parent to lavish my children with affectionate touch. Hugs. Kisses. Pats. Playing with my daughter’s hair. Rubbing my son’s back. Rolling around on the floor wrestling. All of these types of touch strengthen your child’s development.
- Playtime – Play is crucial to a child’s development. Children learn through free play. Through play, children create, imagine, dream. They explore the world around them. It is essential to find the time for free, unstructured play in our children’s often busy day-to-day lives.
- Praise – Sincere praise helps build self-esteem. It builds confidence in children. Praise focused on your child’s effort and hard work—not necessarily the outcome of that work—instills a positive work ethic in your child. It can encourage your child to try hard in the future.
- Structure – Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Structure helps children learn to live within the rules and limits that you set forth for your family. These rules and limits give children a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.
- Consistency – Similar to structure, consistency makes a child’s world predictable and less confusing. When parents provide consistency, children learn they can rely on their parents and trust that their needs will be met. And that is what we want most as parents—for our children to trust us. To rely on us. To know that we will always be there for them.
- Freedom to fail – It can be incredibly challenging to give our children the freedom to fail. But just like you and me, children learn through their failures. A child who is never allowed to try and fail will never learn to succeed.
- Independence – It’s difficult to watch a kindergartner spend ten full minutes tying their shoes—especially when you are late for work and trying to shuffle them out the door! But allowing your child these moments of independence will improve their self-esteem. Through independence children get to enhance their skills, learn right and wrong, develop their personality, and make decisions—all invaluable skills in adulthood.
Photo Credit: Tatiana Vdb