As a parent, I worry about how what I do daily will affect Zachary as an adult. Every day, I have to make decisions that seem insignificant in the moment but over time, the trends of my behaviors shape his future self. There is a lot of debate over how much of kids personalities and temperaments are determined by nature and how much is determined by nurture. A review of some of these studies is the subject of this article.
Regardless how much is determined by what I do, who he becomes and how he views the world is at least partially controlled by how I relate to him. The way we teach, discipline, and interact with him, in general, will definitely have an effect on who he becomes. I want him to become the happiest, most confident, adventurous, and determined person he can be. There are 5 things kids need that I try to make sure to give him so that this wish for him becomes a reality.
What do kids need and how can we give it to them?
All children need love, that’s obvious. But how can we best express love? How can we teach our children how to behave, while affecting how they feel about themselves and the world around them in a positive way? There are endless amounts of actions and words that one could list off to impact our children in positive ways. But we all have different parenting styles and ways in which we interact with our spouses, families, and friends. That makes it difficult to follow the advice of parenting books, blogs, or those close to us in how to best give our children what they need.
Overall, what it boils down to are these 5 things kids need. Each of these needs can be expressed in a number of ways. There is no one right way to parent and no one right way to express love and teach our children. As long as your words and actions are hitting on these five things, I think you can be confident that your children will get what they need from you and grow into healthy, responsible adults with positive views of themselves and the world around them.
5 Things Kids Need from Parents
1. Physical affection
Most people immediately think of hugs and kisses as physical affection. Unfortunately, this type of physical contact doesn’t come easily for all people. Parents like this may worry that they can’t provide this form of love to their child, but that’s simply untrue. Physical affection can be provided in many different ways. If you have a young child, let them sit on your lap or close to you while you read or watch a movie. You can have physical contact like braiding or cutting your daughter’s hair. All of these actions have an element of physical contact. They also provide something to the child that shows you care about them and their well-being.
2. Verbal Affirmation/Praise
Find ways to consistently reinforce to your kids that they are worthy and enough. Compliment them on small things. Give them credit when they do well. Some people may think that too much praise doesn’t teach kids about the real world, but I disagree. You can’t praise and affirm your child’s worth enough. I’m not saying give out rewards for nothing but consider their age and what they can do.
Something that seems easy and mundane to you may be difficult for them. If your two-year-old helps pick up his toys, tell him how great of a helper he is! If your 5-year-old offers to help feed the dogs, tell her how nice it is that she’s helping. Or how thankful the dogs are that she helps take care of them. You can find all sorts of little ways to tell your child you’re proud of them or that you “see” them. We spend a lot of time correcting and reprimanding our kids. We need to ensure we spend more time sending them positive messages about their behavior.
3. Quality Time
Spending time with our kids, without distraction, is important. It can be as simple as making sure you set aside some amount of time every day where there is no tv, no cell phone, no computer. Just you and your kid. Some days it might only be 30 minutes, other days it might be more than an hour. The important part is that during that time, they’re your only priority. Letting them pick the activity you do during this time can make them feel even more valued during this time. It doesn’t have to be anything special or fancy. Read some stories and talk, color or do an art project, take a walk, go to the park. Pick something to do every day where your attention is focused 100% on your child (or children). They’ll feel important and won’t feel as inclined to act up to get your attention during other times if their need is being met.4. Verbal Affection
Some parents aren’t comfortable saying “I love you.” While it’s best if you can, there are other ways to express love through verbal affection. Try saying things like, “spending time with you is my favorite part of the day.” Or “I miss spending time with you when I’m at work.” Hearing these type of things regularly will make your child feel that you love them. They’ll know thinking about them often and enjoy spending time with them. Some other things you could say are “you’re my favorite person to spend time with,” “I couldn’t wait to see you after work today!” and “I’m so happy that you’re my son/daughter.”
This is one that many people overlook. It’s important that we demonstrate honesty with our kids. Not that kids should hear, see, and know everything in the world, of course. They still need us to be their filter for some of the awful and depressing things that exist. But there are a lot of things that parents lie to their kids about or simply don’t discuss for no reason. The family’s financial situation, why they can’t do certain things, and how hard certain things can be are a few examples. You might not want them to see all of the graphic images of a natural disaster, but it’s not a bad thing for kids to know (within an appropriate limit for their age range of course) that bad things sometimes happen. It helps sets them up for a stronger position in the world, makes them more empathetic, and can encourage lots of positive attributes.
If you explain that the homeless man you passed that he asks about is homeless and doesn’t have money and that lots of people aren’t as well off as your own family, you can also encourage positive attributes. You have the opportunity to teach the value of money, gratitude and appreciation for what you have, and possibly ways you can help others who are less fortunate. Knowing the truth about things isn’t always a bad thing. Give your kids credit for what they are able to comprehend and handle. Explain situations to them in terms they’ll understand. If it’s something difficult, like death, help them work through it and always end on a positive note. Honesty doesn’t have to equal harsh and depressing.
There are the 5 things kids need most. They’re in no particular order and all of equal importance. I do my best to give Zach a little of each of these every day. By doing this, I believe he will become a well rounded, loving, person with a sense of worth and respect.
Do you agree/disagree with my 5 things kids need? What would you add to the list?
-To your Better Life-
All photos in this post courtesy of Lichter Photography