Too many times we fall into the “Me, Mommy! You, Child!” frame of mind. Respect your child and allow him to feel a sense of power over his world. Instead of demanding a certain behavior, help him understand why it may be the best choice. Speak with your child like you would with a friend, gathering opinions and coming up with solutions together. Respecting your child, honoring his opinion, and empowering him does not lessen your role as a mother. Remember, you are not running a dictatorship; you’re managing a family.
The Need for Acceptance: A child needs to know that no matter what her personality, behavior, talents, or abilities are, she is absolutely accepted for who she is. This is mothering with no strings attached. Your child must feel that she can always get a hug, a loving conversation, and an attitude from you that says, “I enjoy being in your presence,” without having to earn it.
When times get tough and the behavior becomes challenging (which it will), forget about sticking to your guns. Put the guns down and stretch out your arms instead. See the behavior, not your child, as unacceptable and help her become aware of the difference. It is your job to help your child grow up with the unshakable knowledge that she is always accepted and always unconditionally loved by you, from now to eternity. Nothing she can ever do will change that, and she needs to know this in the depths of her spirit. Her choices my frustrate you at times, even cause you pain, and you do not have to accept those choices. But you must always accept her.
The Need for Breathing Room: We live in a culture that is jam-packed from morning to night. Our schedules, homes, minds, and lives are filled with so much stuff we can hardly navigate around it all. From soccer practice to music lessons to art class to day camp, our children’s days are crammed full. As moms, we are contstantly bombarded with what a “good mother’ does and often find ourselves subconsciously subscribing to a philosophy that we are somehow shortchanging our children if we don’t provide them with every opportunity possible. Instead of developing their skills and abilities, our children’s schedules often become a manifestation of our own inadequacies. As a result, meals are eaten on the run, little time is spent together as a family, weekends are spent doing the “soccer mom shuffle,” and our children have no room in their lives to just play, exist, and simply breathe in life.
Sometimes the best gift you can give your child is not more instruction but more room to develop his own abilities. A child needs to explore and discover, and he needs free time to do this. True genius usually does not occur in the classroom. It happens spontaneously in the backyard with a field guide, over a box of Legos, or through the simple medium of pencil and paper. Don’t think for one minute that you are doing a poor job as a mom by not enrolling your child in the submersion French program or weekly toddler gymnastics classes. Quit prodding your child. Enjoy him and let him enjoy himself.
The Need for Security: Nothing beats the feeling of a warm blanket when it’s cold outside or a strong hand to hold when the path is rocky. All of us have a deep need for security. We long to feel safe in an unsure world, and our children are no different. Parents frequently fall into the trap of equating their child’s fears and insecurities with their own. However, the size of the event does not determine the level of anxiety. The first day of preschool can be just as scary for a child as the first day on the job is for an adult.
We are not overprotecting our children by providing them with unlimited amounts of security. Pushing them out of the nest does nothing to develop their wings. It only teaches them that this world is a scary place and that their fears are completely warranted. Believe me, when they are ready, they will fly – with complete freedom and confidence. It is not our job to force our children to face their fears. it is our job, however, to give them the security of knowing that they are not facing their fears alone. Throughout your children’s lives, you do not need to clear the path before them and you do not need to shove them down it. You merely need to stay close behind and back them up.
The Need to Feel Treasured: Your children are a gift. Don’t ever let a day go by without somehow confirming this. Your children need to know that your life is greater, richer, fuller simply because of them. There are so many ways to show them how much you treasure them. You can treasure them with the simple gift of undivided attention. Give them your full attention when they speak to you, with eyes on them, ears hearing every word. Treasure them by showing them that no thing is ever more important than they are. Paint spills, windows break, carpets get destroyed, and walls mysteriously get colored on. These are all things, just things. A dining room chair is easy to repair; a child’s wounded spirit is not. Show them you treasure them by operating on their time, not yours. Slow down enough to really appreciate who they are. That is the true treasure.
The Need to Fail: I am constantly astounded at a child’s natural propensity to learn. From the moment that little baby takes his first step, falls to the ground, gets back up again, and takes those final steps into outstretched arms, he has learned that his efforts produce results. He has also learned that sometimes you need to fall on your fanny a few times to get where you want to go. This simple model is the key to success in life – failures are often the most effective means of learning, and persistence always pays off.
Children are often denied this lesson today. Our society goes to extremes to even the playing field and remove failure from the picture. Failure is uncomfortable, there’s no doubt about that. But we all need to realize that it’s a very necessary part of a successful life. It is not our task as moms to eliminate failure. It is our task to teach our children that failure is a part of life, one that should never be feared. We need to teach them too that, on the flip side of the coin, persistence always results in success. Delayed gratification is a wonderful gift to give to your children. What joy they will have in life when they learn that the best things are worth working for, saving for, and waiting on. Whether it’s that first car or that first kiss. Instant gratification is euphoric, but the lesson is never learned and the pleasure never lasts. As a mom, you don’t need to make your children’s lives perfect. Instead, you need to adequately equip your children to handle the inevitable imperfections that come with it.
We as parents have the ability to help these needs be met for our children, just take a few minutes this week and work on incorporating one of these needs that jumped out at you to incorporate with one or more of your children! You’ll be surprised at what a difference a few changes just might make in that child!