What we say affects our kids…probably more than we’d like to admit.
It’s quite possible that, when my kids become adults, they will sit at a friend’s house (or a counselor’s office) and talk about something that I did that they “couldn’t stand”. I’m sure I have already made and will continue to make mistakes in my parenting that will affect them negatively.
I want those instances to be few.
I want my overwhelming love and commitment to be the ocean in which my mistakes drown.
As a father, I want my words and actions to be building blocks into a healthy, happy, functional adult life for my children.
I woke up this morning thinking about some things that I think are important for my kids to hear from me. My hope is that they are helpful to you, as well.
I realize that life can get complicated. Some may feel like this doesn’t apply to them because they are divorced or separated. Not so. These are things that need to be said whether you’re still married to their mother/father or not. These are for all the parents, in diverse circumstances, who still have the chance to say it, mean it and prove it.
5 Things Kids Need to Hear Their Parents Say:
#1- “I love you, no matter what.”
Everyone wants love and acceptance. Kids need to know, from the very beginning, that they have both of those from their parents. We need to tell them we love them. And, not just with empty words, but with daily actions that prove it. They need to know that we love them even when they make mistakes. They need to know that even when we have to correct them, we forgive them. We love them when their behavior is “good” and when it’s “bad”. Parents have the chance to be the first example of true acceptance for who they are…no matter what!
#2- “How was your day?”
We can’t really have a healthy relationship with our kids unless we know who they are. This is easy to overlook, because, as a parent, we know that most of what they have in their brains as young children is the stuff we put in there ourselves. But things begin to change. They begin to form their own opinions and perspectives. Certain things bother them and certain things make them happy. We need to know what they are. We can’t assume that we know all that is going on in their minds. We have to take time to listen to them. Really listen. They need to be heard and feel heard. It takes time, but it’s time well spent.
#3- “You are more important to me than my job.”
You could replace the word “job” with “stuff/career/status/success”. One of the things we say often at our house is, “People are more important than things.” This is not just a convenient quote for when the kids are fighting over the last popsicle. It’s something that we have to model. We need to clearly communicate that they are a higher priority than our other pursuits.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I don’t think we need to spend all of our time with our kids. They would get bored and they’d never grow up. We need to live our own lives well so they can see how it’s done. We need to pursue our passions and use our gifts to make the world a better place, but not at the expense of our children. We might think to ourselves, “I would never put my job before my kids.” But it can creep in under the radar. We may begin with good intentions, only to find that our work has eaten up more of our life than it should. It’s good to be reminded of the potential so we can check ourselves.
#4- “I’m sorry.”
When said in sincerity, with actions to back it up, these words communicate so much! You show humility. You admit your imperfection. You acknowledge that both parent and child are fellow travelers in life, figuring out how to do it along the way. There are times when kids should give Mom or Dad the benefit of the doubt and trust that we know best in certain situations. They haven’t experienced what we’ve experienced and they need us to guide them. However, you will do your children a disservice if all they every learn is “obedience”. They need to know that you are not the final authority in life. They need us to admit when we make bad choices. No excuses. No passing the blame. Just owning it.
#5- “I will always be here for you.”
Our kids need to know we will always be their parents. They need to know that, no matter what circumstances come our way, they can always call on us. We will not leave them to pursue other things. We will not turn them away when they come to us for help. As long as it’s in our ability to control, we will be accessible and willing to help. This part is about commitment. We all have freedom to make choices. We chose to do things that led to having children. Now we need to own it. We need to be present. We need to do whatever it takes to give our kids the best chances at life. Part of that is by being the best mother/father we can be.
I know I didn’t cover everything. There are a number of other things that we could list here. A few that I considered including were: “Can you pass me the potatoes?” (eat together), “Wasn’t that a good movie?” (do fun stuff), “How do you know it’s true?” (reminding them to pursue truth and not to believe everything they hear).
What are some things you would include in the list?