So often, parents get stuck in the rut of providing only the necessities. We all know our kids need food, water, and shelter and, for most of us, those are usually simple things to give; even when planning dinner seems really hard, it’s never the hardest part of parenting. What is much more difficult is knowing what they need to thrive emotionally and mentally. That’s usually what we mean when we say, “I just don’t want to mess this up,” in reference to parenting. You don’t mean family dinner, you mean their heart - and that’s a good thing. If you’re afraid of messing it up, it means you care, and that’s the first step to fully, actively loving your child. Here’s a list of the top 5 things your kid really, truly needs from you:
What Your Kids Need From You
Apologies. Kids learn by seeing and replicating what you do. We’re not telling you that you have to be a perfect dad. In fact, far from it! We’re realistic here. But if you’re not also owning up to your mistakes and apologizing to your kids, start now. It holds yourself and your child accountable for the things you’ve done wrong. We all make mistakes. We all lose our shit sometimes. But we also have to apologize when it happens. Yes, even to the newborns.
Unconditional love. This is in the same vein as apologies. When your kid messes up, it’s important to remind them that you still love them. They crave connection and fear rejection much deeper than we do - I mean, think about it, they haven’t been told to get lost quite as often as we did in our bar-crawling days, right? They’re just not used to it, and they shouldn’t have to learn from their parents. On any given day, it is important to remind your child that you still love them, and you will always love them.
Exercise. For no other reason than to expel their energy and develop healthy habits. It is so easy to hand a kid a tablet or a phone and mesmerize them into quietness, but they have to get their energy out or it can turn into anxiety or hyperactivity. Not to mention, it’s just fun to hang out with your kids on a hike, playing basketball, or even making your baby laugh during tummy time. Grab your backpack, and take your kids on some adventures that even you will enjoy. It is never a bad idea to spend more time with your kids, which leads me to…
Time. Your kids are always excited to spend time with you. It’s like kids are born with the “quality time” Love Language. Even an extra ten minutes a day of undivided attention can have the most fulfilling benefits for your kids. Involve them in making a craft, painting, making dinner, cleaning the house, washing the car, even taking out the trash. If there is one thing a kid loves, it’s helping you with your daily chores. Sure, it sets you up for a perfect opportunity to teach them the value of cleanliness and responsibility, but all they’ll remember is that you were together.
Protection. No, not Liam Neeson-style, Taken protection (but that’d be pretty cool, not gonna lie). Your kids just need to feel safe with you, in every sense of the word. Safety means a lot of different things when it comes to kids, though. Your kid needs to feel safe around you, to feel comfortable being themselves, and they need to feel like you’re prepared for when things go wrong. Make your relationship with your kids secure by getting to know them, finding interest in their hobbies, and supporting their interests. But you also have to make sure they’re not afraid of their environment when they’re with you. Be extra patient and compassionate with your kids, and always pack a first aid kit!
Discipline. Not the over-the-top kind, but the kind that holds them accountable for when they do something wrong. We all have a set list of rules to live by. Whether it be the rules of the house, the law, or of general society, we have to teach our kids that they can’t just run out of the house naked, loudly asserting that they’re going to Neverland to live with Peter Pan and Wendy (just my kid? lol). Kids crave structure and responsible, gentle discipline helps provide that structure. Sometimes discipline is just a look - you know what look I mean - and sometimes it’s a time-out. Another way to discipline is to remove privileges, like their screen time hours or favorite toy for a while. But, remember the above and always give back their toys and screen time, with a gentle reminder of what they did wrong. Allow them the opportunity to apologize, and remind them that you still love them.
Being a Good Dad
At the end of the day, we’re all human - you, and your kid. They will let you down and make mistakes, and so will you to them. Your kids just want to know that when those things do happen, it doesn’t change the foundation of your relationship. You can still fall right back into your normal shenanigans together! Keep things light and happy, knowing that deep down, you’d do anything for them.
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