As parents, we ponder and fret about our kids’ futures. Will we be able to help them obtain necessary higher education? Will they choose wise career paths and get good jobs? Will they marry happily and for the long haul?
Those are important questions – to the extent we can actually influence the answers. However, we do our children a grave disservice if we focus so much on trying to shape their future potential that we ignore their present value. In other words, we must remember that our kids are human beings, not human “doings” merely biding their time until they can be productive adults. And they must know they’re important to us – not for what they might “become” but simply for being our kids now.
How do we do that?
Let them be kids.
Encouraging academic achievement – real learning, not just getting “good grades” – is important. Teaching the value of hard work is important. But research proves that one chief way kids learn and develop properly is through play. We must value that truth by jealously guarding our children’s free time and by giving their imaginations space to flourish. So we shouldn’t schedule lessons and organized activities every night of the week. And we must facilitate an environment at home conducive to healthy play – by limiting kids’ use of technology and by encouraging them to make their own good old-fashioned, creative fun.
Show interest in their interests.
Dr. Kathy wisely says, “Parent the child you have, not the one you wanted.” In other words, we value our children by accepting and celebrating each one’s unique temperament, personality, and abilities instead of wishing they were different. And we show our acceptance by choosing to become genuinely interested in the things to which they’re drawn. Though the interests will change over time as they gain a greater understanding of themselves, we need to be their cheerleaders all through the process.
When the child who could be a champion swimmer explains that she dislikes competition, we must respect her wishes. When a child expresses fear even though he knows it’s irrational, we need to comfort. When he begs us to come and see yet another amazing Lego creation – indistinguishable from all the others as far as we can tell – we must choose to give specific, genuine praise. When a child says, “Mom, I need to talk,” we need to willingly step away from the computer and devote our full attention to her. When we truly listen, we demonstrate that the child matters…right now.
Do we really value the children in our lives for who they are, or do we just give lip service to the concept? Our actions will give us the honest answer.
Photo Credit: t. abroudj