10 Priceless Gifts Parents Can Give Children

Here are 10 priceless gifts parents can give their children…

Gift 1 – A Sense of Connection and Family

Children need a sense of belonging to a family, regardless of the structure of that family. One of the worst things that can happen to a child is to feel isolated and alone, with no support or caring from their family. Children crave that special feeling of being connected and part of a family, so make a conscious effort to nurture that feeling.

Establish family traditions, even simple ones like making pancakes on Saturday mornings or planting flowers each spring. Support each other as a family, with expectations for appropriate behavior and unconditional love for the person. Give your child a sense of family and he or she will thrive.

Gift 2 – Respect

Children need parents who respect them as human beings. This does not mean giving in to a child’s every whim, but it does mean treating that child as an active and important member of the family. A parent needs to listen well, paying attention to a child’s hopes, fears, dreams and hurts. Children have strong feelings, and the way a parent deals with those feelings affects children all the way through adulthood.

Let your child know that it is okay to feel angry, sad, happy, scared, and all of the other powerful emotions that humans experience. Teach your child healthy ways to deal with their feelings, both with your words and most importantly with your actions. Children are smart and notice everything you do, so respect them enough to model healthy living.

Keeping your word to your child shows that you respect them. When you make a promise, don’t dismiss it readily saying to yourself something like “It’s just a child.” If you would keep that promise to an adult out of respect, do the same for your child.

Perhaps the most important way you can show respect for your children is by eliminating negative destructive criticism from your household. Destructive criticisms, like “You are so stupid, why can’t you clean the dishes right,” is as corrosive as ‘Drano’ to your child’s self-esteem and dreams. You would never think of physically harming your child, but that’s what you are doing to their soul when you attack them with destructive criticisms.

Gift 3 – Persistence

Children need parents to teach them persistence. It communicates something that is critical to success in life – when you start something important and that you really care about, you may have setbacks, you may face difficult obstacles, you may fail, and you may need to struggle with doubt and disappointment before finally having a breakthrough.

Children naturally like to give up on things that get boring, hard, and the like, but children who don’t know how to persist grow into adults who don’t know how to persist.

This has a powerful impact on the ability to get and keep a job; start and finish schoolwork; stay and build a healthy relationship, and more. If you teach your children to persist, you prepare them to be responsible adults.

A great way to teach your children persistence is to offer them encouragement when they want to try something new, and give them support if they happen to fail. It not only builds their self-esteem and gives them confidence to go after what they want, but it also helps them pick themselves up after a fall and continue marching forward. It let’s them know that it’s OK to fail, you just have to get back up and find a different way to achieve your goals.

This article has some other ideas on how you can reframe the definition of failure for yourself and for your child.

Another way to build persistence is to help your child focus on and enjoy the process of getting better at something rather than just the final outcome they want. For example, if they are struggling to shoot free-throws, you can help them focus on practicing and doing the work that it takes to get better. Learning to enjoy improvement and mastery rather than just outcomes helps your child persist through setbacks and obstacles.

If you want to see an amazing example of what an encouraging parent can do, you’ll want to see the story of Ben Underwood, who was blinded at an early age by cancer.

His mother always supported him and encouraged him to try new things. She regularly told him there was almost nothing that other kids could do that he couldn’t do as well. It paid off, because now he can ‘see’ using echo-location like dolphins and does all sorts of normal activities you wouldn’t expect a blind teenager to be able to do.

Gift 4 – Opportunity & Education

Children need opportunities to try different things. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is to force a child into just one hobby, just one sport, just one way of thinking, etc. Growing up is a time of exploration and learning, so parents need to create opportunities for those things.

Let your child try things that they find interesting. If she is interested in animals then take her to the local animal shelter to volunteer. If he loves bugs, then go for a walk in the local park and see how many bugs you can find. The key is to find ways to provide your children with the opportunity to do a variety of things and have a variety of experiences.

Expose them to new & different ideas. Cultivate their wonder and curiosity. Help them discover the joy and pleasure of learning.

It is clear that parent involvement plays a crucial role in the education of children. The more involved you are in their education, the better off they’ll be academically and in life. Don’t rely solely on the school system to teach your kids. Make time to help them with their homework, expand their knowledge, and help them discover new things.

And remember that some of the most important life lessons won’t be taught in school.

Gift 5 – Love & Affection

Love is the most valuable and important gift that a parent can give to his or her children because children need a constant flow of love to have excellent physical and emotional health.

According to Brian Tracy, there are three main ways that parents show their children that they love them.

The first, and most obvious, is to simply tell them that you love them. Tell them every day.

The second is through physical contact and affection. A hug, a pat on the back, even a warm smile and a soft “I love you” can have a huge impact on your child. Affection from a parent reassures a child who has made a mistake that while their behavior was incorrect, they are still a lovable person. It shows a child who has experienced disappointment that you are a safe, secure source of support who can help in difficult times.

Warm, loving affection given openly and frequently strengthens the bond between parent and child and creates a strong foundation for the future.

The third way to show children that you love them is through your actions. You can say the words all you want, but you also need to walk the talk, spend lots of quality time together when you can give them your full attention.

Leslie Karen Lobell argues convincingly why love is the greatest gift we can give our children.

Gift 6 – Discipline

Children need boundaries and structure to help them navigate through life. They crave them, even if they won’t admit it.

One of your most important jobs as a parent is to guide your children and teach them right from wrong. It’s often very easy to say ‘Yes’ to someone you love, but sometimes what they really need most is a strong ‘No.’

Discipline is much more about teaching than punishment. Effective discipline is always about the behavior, not the child. Avoid destructive criticism and make it clear to your kids that you’ll always love them, even when you disapprove of their actions.

Discipline is important because it teaches children how to control their impulses, feelings, and behavior. As they grow, they will learn self-discipline and how to delay gratification in order to go after what they want, both of which will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Gift 7 – Time to Play and Laugh

Children need parents who play with them. A child’s brain is programmed to play because that is how it learns, so find a way to play with your child as often as possible. Shoot hoops with a basketball, play a card game, play tic tac toe, or draw pictures – it doesn’t matter what you choose, it just matters that you take the time to do it.

Did you have a favorite game when you were a kid? Go ahead and teach that game to your child. You will share a piece of yourself with your child, your child will learn something new, and the two of you will strengthen your relationship along the way.

Children also need parents to give them the gift of laughter. Life is far too full of serious times, so be sure to foster those light hearted times when you and your child can simply laugh. Read a joke book together, play a silly game together, practice making faces in the mirror – whatever it takes to step away from every day life and soak up the benefits of laughter.

Laughter should be a part of every single day. Encourage your child to read their favorite comic strip every morning, or make up a joke each night at the dinner table. Most of all, show your child the value of laughter by allowing yourself to laugh right along. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you both feel.

Gift 8 – Independence & Self-Sufficiency

Some parents dread the time when their kids will leave the nest and go off on their own, but it is just a natural part of the growth process.

You can help them on their journey by teaching them basic life skills, like cooking and laundry, how to handle finances, how to learn and think for themselves, how to respect and interact with others, and how to be responsible human beings.

For example, even something as simple as learning to cook teaches children about healthy eating, measuring and volume, weight, temperature, and more. It is a practical skill they will use the rest of their lives and is a great teaching opportunity for other important life skills.

Teach your children to put together a healthy meal and you are teaching them to plan, make a schedule, and nourish their bodies. Just the trip to the grocery store alone offers wonderful learning opportunities, from using money to reading labels to budgeting.

Another way you can help your kids become more independent is to let them struggle and find their own solutions to problems. As parents, we often find it difficult to see our kids struggling. Of course we want to help them. But sometimes, the best help we can give is to let them struggle and figure it out on their own.

Obviously, you don’t want to do this if there is any real danger involved, and you don’t want to make their whole life a struggle. Just recognize that problems can sometimes be wonderful teaching opportunities for your child.

If your child is having problems figuring out the solution, you can provide constructive forms of criticism to help them find the right answer.

Constructive criticism focuses on the behavior, strategy, or techniques used, rather than on the traits of the child. For example, “That doesn’t seem like a good way to solve this problem, why don’t you try something else,” or “You are missing those free-throws because you have to bend your knees, tuck in your elbow a bit more, and follow through with your wrist.”

Remember to avoid destructive criticism at all costs… so don’t say, “Any idiot could do that… You stupid or something? Do it again!”

Gift 9 – Praise

Children need parents to praise them. They thrive on knowing they are doing well, whether it is learning to walk, learning to use the toilet, or learning to drive. But don’t think for a moment that children need empty or insincere praise, because they see right through that and know you don’t really mean it.

Instead, find legitimate, positive reasons to offer praise. When your child comes home with an art project, praise the shape or the color or something else about it. When your child brushes his teeth without being reminded, praise him for being responsible. When your daughter solves a difficult math problem, praise her for getting through it instead of giving up. The key is to praise your children often and sincerely, reinforcing important life lessons and giving them the confidence they need.

A recent article by Po Bronson provides clear evidence that ‘false’ praise, or general praise aimed only at the child’s natural abilities, can actually backfire and lead to less confidence and lower self-esteem.

It may seem counterintuitive, but telling a child that he or she is ‘smart’ when they accomplish something may lead them to believe that it should be easy for them to do other similar things. Because of this belief, they may take fewer risks, only attempt things that they can easily accomplish, or easily give up when they face a real challenge.

“I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized – it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.”

Some advice from the researchers in the article:

Give praise for specific actions or behaviors that lead to a good outcome. For example, kids in a hokey team were given specific praise for the number of times they ‘checked’ an opponent. This helps them understand what works and what doesn’t.
Be sincere and transparent in your praise. According to the article, children can sense false praise and they associate it with a sign that they lack ability, perceiving that they need encouragement to feel better about themselves because of their limitations. Too much insincere praise can actually cause a child to discount sincere praise as well.
Unexpected praise works best. Like most rewards, praise starts to lose its effectiveness when the child starts to expect it because it’s been given too frequently and too easily. Children need to learn how to work through struggles on their own, without relying on praise from the parent as the main motivator. It’s good to give praise often, just make sure that it is well deserved.

Tell your kids that effort and practice can improve their natural abilities. A class was given a lecture showing that ability is not necessarily innate and that the brain can actually change as it adapts to new challenges. This lecture alone led to higher math scores because the kids realized that they could get better through practice and hard work. The lesson here is that hard work pays off.

Gift 10 – A Good Example

Whether you like it or not, the moment you became a parent, you also became a role model. Children learn by imitating and doing what their parents do and say. Remember that your everyday actions, what you say, how you treat people, how you treat yourself, all are literally shaping and molding a young life.

Be an example of the kind of person you want your child to become, but don’t force them to follow your path. Let them find their own path through life.

If you want your child to find and have a loving relationship someday, then show them what that type of relationship looks like. Love your spouse and your family.

Make exercise a lifelong habit in your household, and it will eventually become a lifelong habit for your kids as well.

Show them how to interact with others in a respectful and courteous manner. Be a true example of the golden rule, show them how to share, and let them experience the joy of giving first hand. Openly admit your mistakes, and apologize when you treat them badly.

A wonderful poem by Dorothy Nolte says that children learn what they live, and I could not agree more.

Above all, remember that children are not ‘yours.’ Children are unique and precious; they are not here to make you happy, to help you experience what you missed out in life, to meet your expectations, or to fulfill your needs. So give them these priceless gifts out of love and don’t expect anything in return.

Poet Kahlil Gibran wrote a wonderful passage about children in his masterpiece The Prophet…

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Comments

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