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What Your Kid Needs Most

October 22, 2019

The question is: What does your kid need most? There are a ton of answers to this. Especially in a culture where there are no standards, where there are no absolutes. And in a world of instant electronic accessibility, there are a ton of experts who voice their opinion on this question.

I’m as into leveraging tech as much as my brain allows (which, I admit, isn’t too deep a dive) for voicing my opinions. I do Facebook like a Jr. Hi kid. I send and receive more email than surface mail. Snail mail, for those of us who are techno-hip. Shoot, I’m typing this directly into my blogging software, with no word processor help. So I’m way not against the many cyber-options we have for expressing our opinions and learning about other opinions.

I have concerns, though, over the fact that it seems that so little common sense is in operation with so many of the opinions I read. It’s always been this way, I guess, but it seems more so now than ever in my memory – common sense isn’t so common.

What I want to propose as the answer to my question comes from a place of common sense, along with some substantial behavioral science. What kids need most is (a drum roll, please) SECURITY.

Don’t mistake security for protection. Yes, our kids need protection. Some kids need more of it than others. But protection – removing risk – isn’t what I’m talking about when I site security as their greatest need. The kind of security I’m talking about permits kids to take appropriate risks to become who God intends them to be.

I’m not a fan of helicopter parents who hover over their kids to make sure everything in their world is suitable. Generally, these parents favor giving participation trophies and not keeping score, ever, for fear of damaging the fragile psyches of their dear children. They raise snowflakes. Sorry. I calls ’em like I sees ’em.

When their helicopter parents are no longer there to cushion every fall and turn down their bed every night (the bed the helicopter parent made that morning), these kids struggle to figure out how to make life work. Which is often no biggie, because major college administrations are making all sorts of rules and policies that will continue the protective and sheltering philosophy these kids were raised under.

If this feels like a rant, well, I guess it was. Sorry. Not sorry.

What I mean by security often looks very far from protectiveness. It is, in fact, often NOT protective.

There are certainly things children should be protected from. There are plenty of unsafe environments kids need to be protected from and removed from. Violence in their home isn’t acceptable. Physical deprivation is never acceptable. Kids should be protected from this. You can make your own catalog of these sorts of things. It’s irresponsible to expose kids to unnecessary and harmful risks. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I’m talking about the normal difficulties of life. The normal difficulties of life don’t fit in the bucket of things from which children should be protected.

It astounds me that there are parents who don’t give a thought to the fact that their young kids are watching R rated movies on the cable on-demand channel, and laugh when their kids quote lines from them, but who bristle to outburst when those same kids have to deal with a kid in their class calling them a name, or a teacher who doesn’t give them credit for work they didn’t turn in. You get the point.

I believe there are two primary things that give kids security. First of all, there’s consistency. I’ve written about the need to make the rules clear, and then for them to be enforced and observed consistently. (If you want to read it, click on this link: https://homeworkwithst.com/2019/10/04/making-rules-that-work/)

When the rules are enforced inconsistently – when one day a behavior is winked at or laughed off, but on another day, the hammer comes down hard for that same behavior – kids will be insecure. When the boundaries are unclear, there will be insecurity. And that’s not all. When the rules clearly don’t consistently apply to everybody, insecurity will often become resentment, which will eventually become bitterness and rebellion.

When there are rules that apply only to them, you, as the parent, are tasked with the job of explaining as best you can that there are rules that don’t apply to everybody. Some rules that are right for 3 year olds will probably not be right for a 6th grader. There really are some rules that apply to kids, but not to parents. If you want to give yourself the best chance of success in this rule thing, you want as few of those kind of rules as you can.

Rules and rule keeping aren’t the only place consistency is essential. You showing up emotionally and consistently being present with your kids and the rest of your family is perhaps equally as important.

You consistently showing appropriate physical affection for spouse, if married, is essential. If you’re divorced, you consistently NOT disrespecting your ex is essential.

Consistency is huge. Lots of bad stuff grows out of inconsistency from parents.

The second thing that gives kids security is knowing they’re safe if they fail. One of the biggest reasons kids feel unsafe to fail is that they believe they won’t be loved and accepted if they don’t succeed. Or that they’ll be more loved and more accepted if they succeed, which isn’t really any more positive. Kids who sense this will run on a performance treadmill. They’ll put in the effort, but never feel that they’re making any progress. Many of them will be on that treadmill for their entire life, not just the few years of their childhood.

Notice I wrote, “Kids who sense this…” You don’t have to tell kids they’re less loved and accepted when they fail. They figure this out on their own, even if it’s not the truth. If you don’t go out of your way to make it clear that they’re loved and accepted even when they fail, they’ll sense that they’re less loved and accepted when they fail. Even if what your kid feels isn’t the truth, they will go with it as fact. It will have the power of truth in their lives. It’s part of our human brokenness. So you have to help them get the truth into both their hearts and minds.

Your words are important in this. Choose them carefully. And your actions are powerful, too. So choose them wisely. Be intentional about what you do and what you say when your kids fail. Go out of your way to affirm how much you love and treasure them. You don’t have to pretend they didn’t fail. That models dishonesty, and you don’t want to do that. Be kind, but be gentle. This isn’t being soft. It’s being loving. Tenderness as a response to failure goes a long way.

Maybe thinking of it this way will be helpful. If a colleague in your profession whom you admire and respect failed, how would you talk to them about it? That’s probably going to be useful for talking to your kid about failure, because, although you may have to use a less professional and adult vocabulary, that’s how you want to talk to your kid about their failure.

The Apostle Paul advised, “…speak(ing) the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15) That’s what I’m talking about here. Speaking the truth in love requires maturity, though. Sometimes a LOT of maturity. Well, you’re supposed to be the mature one in the relationship. So muster your maturity and apply truth with love when you talk to your kids about failure.

If you’re a parent, you already know that your kids have their best moments when they know they’re secure. They do their best when you’re consistent in your response to their obedience and disobedience, and consistently show up in their lives. They do their best work on every level when they believe they’ll never risk your love and appreciation if they fail. This kind of emotional security frees your kid(s) up to be the best version of themselves.

When you do this stuff, you’ll be modeling the only Perfect Parent there has ever been or will ever be, your Father In Heaven. This is how He works with His kids. And guess Who wants you to pull this off more than anyone else. Yep. Him. So partner with Him and give it your best. Because with Him, you’re secure.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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