Not long after my first son was born, someone came up to me and said something that changed my perspective on parenting. “Enjoy every moment. The days are long but the years are short.”
At the time, I was low on sleep and high on stress, and this wasn’t the time for one-liners. Why couldn’t he offer to babysit for a few hours instead?
But it’s been nearly four years since I held my son for the first time, and I’ve thought about his comment hundreds of times.
Parenting is a beautiful storm. Few endeavors are more life-giving and joy-filled. But it’s far from easy. Some days all you can do is hold on. The torrent of poop diapers and irresponsible decisions threaten your sanity. Other days, you see it. You see the hard work, late nights, and discipline finally paying off.
Parenting is hugely important. Strong families are the backbone of strong societies and cultures. Without strong parents building strong children, cultures become paralyzed and stagnant. Parents, you’re shaping the eternal trajectory of your children.
But, let’s be honest, children aren’t easy to read. I still can’t understand why they don’t come with instructions. And the whole thing happens so fast. One minute a huge ball protrudes my wife’s belly. The next moment the huge ball pees on the nurse. Here I am today, just days away from the huge ball’s fourth birthday.
The days are long. The years are short.
You have a short time to prepare your children. And beyond the poker faces are real needs. For children to thrive in today’s world, with its unique complexities and challenges, here are some things kids need.
9 Things Kids Need From You
1.) YOUR MARRIAGE TO TAKE PRIORITY OVER THEM
Children demand time and resources. You should serve them and provide for them. You should invest in their present and future.
And one of the best ways to invest in your children is to invest in your marriage.
If your children take priority over your marriage, you will lose your children and your marriage. Your children will become idols, never living up to your expectations, and you will always expect more from them than they can give.
In the Powell house, we aren’t perfect, but Tiffani and I let our boys know mommy and daddy’s relationship is important. I tell them mommy is important to me. When Tiffani and I talk, they can’t interrupt. We’re are affectionate in front of our children. I want them to see Tiffani and I prioritizing our marriage.
2.) TO SEE YOU LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH, NOT JUST TALK ABOUT IT
Your children might listen to your words, but they will follow your actions.
You can’t pass down faith you don’t model. Jesus must impact your decisions. His ways, which are strange and puzzling to the world, must inform your walk. Read Scripture with your children. Talk about Jesus at home. But don’t leave him there when you take the kids to the ballpark. Don’t talk about justice and never help those in need.
You might think your children are naive. Maybe you’re right. But you’re also naive if you think they aren’t watching (and modeling) your actions.
3.) A LIFE WITHOUT CONSTANT CONNECTION TO TECHNOLOGY
Whether your children are newborns, toddlers, or teenagers, it’s your job to disconnect them from technology. When your default response to boredom or public tantrums is technology, you build a craving in them for entertainment. You’re teaching them that life is a never-ending Disneyland experience. And you’re the tour guide. It’s not your job to entertain your children every waking moment. And it’s not your job to protect them from boredom.
I’m not against technology. But you need boundaries. Establish times when technology isn’t allowed, starting with the dinner table. Allow your children to feel boredom and work through it. It’s fun to visit Disneyland every few years. It’s exhausting when you try to bring Disneyland to your living room.
4.) ENCOURAGE THEM MORE THAN YOU CORRECT THEM
Certain days, my vocabulary shrinks down to two words: no and stop. It’s so easy to highlight the negative. When your children mess up, it’s obvious. But what about the things they do right? Are you highlighting those?
As a parent, your yeses should outweigh your nos.
How often do you say, “I’m proud of you,” “I love you,” or “I’m thankful for you”? You have no idea of the power in affirmation. As a teenager, I longed for this, especially from my dad. I wanted to hear “I love you” from him so bad.
I knew he loved me, but I rarely heard it. And this left a seed of doubt in my mind.
Every day, your children make good choices. If you don’t verbalize them, it’s not just unfortunate. It’s bad stewardship. James 3 says words are like a destructive fire. Well, the opposite is also true. Words build up. Affirmative words that go unspoken are equivalent to extravagant gifts that go unopened.
Are you affirming your children? Do you build up more than you tear down?
5.) TO KNOW LIFE ISN’T FAIR
There’s a disturbing trend in America, especially in youth sports culture. It’s called the “participation trophy effect.” I just made that up, so don’t cite some copyright law. I won’t respond to you.
The “participation trophy effect” says everyone is a winner.
“It’s okay, Billy. You didn’t win the game. But you still get a trophy. Everyone’s a winner out here.”
No, they’re not.
I’m so grateful for my background in sports. They taught me about life. And I learned more from defeat than victory. Participation trophies don’t prepare your children for real life. In real life, not everyone gets a trophy. There are winners and losers. But, through loss and rejection, you learn. You develop perseverance and grit. Defeat might break you down, but you have an opportunity to rebuild stronger than before.