10 Priceless Gifts Your Children Need from You Today

 Father and Son

Note: Check out my guest post over at Tim Brownson’s A Daring Adventure, called 3 Essential Components to a Life Well Lived.

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Gifts come in all forms. shapes and sizes. Some are meaningful and some are devoid of meaning. Some gather dust on shelves and others break and rust and become obsolete. The following list of gifts, however, are guaranteed to never rust or need upgrading, will never spoil or gather dust on shelves. These gifts, in fact, will keep on giving indefinitely.

Following are 10 such gifts your children are waiting to receive from you. They are inexpensive, for the most part. But there is a cost, a cost in the form of changes made to the parent giving them, perhaps in order to give them. Believe me, if given consistently, over time, they promise top dollar on your investment.

10 Gifts to Give Your Children that Will Change Their Lives … and Yours … Forever

1. Time

There is nothing so valuable as your time and there is nothing you can give that would mean more or says more clearly with unequivocal exactness, “You matter to me.” The lack of time spent, the missed games and missed family meals and missed school events send the opposite message.

If your children know you only as that old guy who gets mommy mad and shows up on weekends to watch sports in his underwear, you may want to reevaluate how you spend your time and what message it’s sending your kids.

Instead, first choose what message you want to send them. Then stop fighting the obvious and go hang out with your kids. Give them the gift of you. You just may find that you actually grow to like them a bit.

2. Attention

I’ve seen families where kids were routinely interrupted by adults and kids were routinely scolded for interrupting those same adults. The message is clear: Adults matter. Kids don’t. Have you seen a child repeat the word, “Dad … Dad! … Dad! … Dad! … Dad! … Dad! …” a thousand times because his dad would not stop what he was doing to even acknowledge his child was there?

We are constantly sending little messages to our kids that say, “I love you. You’re important. You’re wonderful and deeply matter to me.” Or we’re sending the message that says, “You’re bothering me. You don’t matter as much as other things in my life. I don’t like you. Go away.” Paying attention to your kids will do wonders to help them sense their own importance and live up to expectations placed in them in wonderful ways.

So pay attention to your children! Watching TV with them is certainly better than sending them off to their rooms to watch alone, but not nearly as good as sitting down to play a game with them, to interact with them at a deeper level. You just might learn a few things about your own kids from such strange and ancient rituals as talking with them.

3. Chores and Responsibilities

One of the most important gifts you can give your kids is the gift of responsibility. When my boy was 3 years old, he was already helping us take out the trash and clean his room and put his socks away. Now he does more as a 6 year old. He’ll thank us for it later.

As a high school teacher, I know kids who were never required to do much of anything around their own home. I know because I’ve asked. Such kids usually just don’t grow up the same as those who learn responsibility and how to work. A sense of entitlement is a difficult addiction to break when they’re older. It’s better never instilled.

4. Trust

I’m not asking for naiveté here. “Trust and check” is a good parental motto to live by. I know kids will be kids. But to constantly express your doubt and disbelief is to send an unmistakable message that you don’t think very highly of them.

Your parents may have doubted you, but you are not tied to your past. Choose to exhibit more trust in your kids. We all tend to rise to the level of trust placed in us, after all.

But again, don’t be naïve. Never place a kid in front of a computer late at night, isolated from the family in his room, for instance. That’s just an invitation to pornographic indulgence, perhaps addiction. My point is only to encourage you to find daily ways of saying, “You’re trustworthy.”

5. Patience

I know kids who literally believe their own parents can’t stand them. They painfully hold this belief because dad is impatient with them, flipping out over inconsequential stuff. When parents get angry at every little thing, children receive it as a statement that they are intolerable inconveniences.

This is not a message you would tolerate long from a friend. So why do we require our kids to tolerate it from us? Instead, exercise the respect and kindness of patience. They’ll notice. So will you.

6. Love

Infants die without it. You and I thrive with it. It sends such a profound message of worth and esteem to young hearts and minds. It breeds self-confidence and more love when it’s lavishly given.

When it’s withheld as a form of punishment (intended or not makes no difference), it’s reduced to a tool, a method of manipulation and loses its power to lift and sooth and strengthen the heart and soul of our children.

So love them openly and completely and demonstratively and unconditionally and in ways they can see and feel and trust. This will be a gift that repeatedly comes back to you over the years.

7. Commitment

Are you truly committed to your family? To your children? To your spouse? If not, you’re putting all of them in jeopardy. If you are committed to your family, they will feel it. You will prioritize them higher than other concerns and interests. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never work overtime or head out to help a friend in need.

There will certainly be times the urgency of others’ needs will be greater than any particular time with family. But in the long-run, it should be obvious where your heart and soul resides. It already is to your children.

8. If Married, Love their Mother/Father

It’s been said that the single most important thing a father can do for his kids’ psychological health and happiness is to love their mom. The opposite is true as well.

Let them see you hug and kiss each other. Let them see the two of you leave them to date each other. Let your kids see you laugh together and play together and hold hands and open her car door and speak tenderly to each other. Let them see you forgive each other and apologize and thank each other.

There is nothing more important that will increase the likelihood that your kids will marry well than this. There is also nothing more solidifying in a liquid culture of melting values or more stabilizing in an unstable world to your kids’ sense of confidence and security in and about your home.

9. If Divorced, Stay Deeply Connected

Some of you reading right now are already divorced. That’s fine. Don’t let that fact draw you away from your responsibilities as dad. You were dad to your kids before you were husband to your second wife (dads much more often than moms abandon their children to varying degrees after divorce, perhaps understandably partly due to custody decisions, but never excusably).

So honor that responsibility and stay as connected as your children will let you. Let them see that you yearn to be with them. That is a worthy gift of itself.

If you need a role model here, watch the Robin Williams movie, Mrs. Doubtfire. That kind of passion to be with his kids sends an unmistakable message worth sending. It’s a gift worth giving. Hopefully you won’t need to go to such extremes to give it!

10. Example

Be the man you want your kids to grow into. Be the woman you want them to become. Become the parents you hope they will be to your future grandchildren. That is a powerful gift to offer them. Be the kind of person who doesn’t have to hide shameful parts of his character for fear of his kids finding out. Be the kind of person they can look up to as a role model of what it means to be a man or a woman, to live with courage and honor and decency and kindness and love and forgiveness and character. If you don’t, they’ll learn anyway. It will just be the wrong lesson taught.

Afterthoughts

Parenthood is a serious business. There’s no business more important you can spend your time and energy building. It requires us to become the kind of person we hope our children grow up to be. It requires us to work on the inside. It requires us to constantly push forward, learning and growing and reshaping our lives as we find parts in need of reshaping.

I hope you are already giving many of these gifts to your kids. I also hope you will take a few of them out, polish them up a bit and re-give them this year.

They’ll thank you for it one day.

YOUR TURN!

  • Please share your thoughts about parenthood in the comments below.
  • What gifts have you offered your children?


 

Photo credit: Nitin Badhwar