The One Gift Every Child Needs

timeHave you ever wondered what could be the greatest gift you could ever give to your child?  Maybe you’ve asked the question a different way – using different words. Or, maybe you made a statement about what you ‘want’ for your child in his/her life. Maybe you’ve wondered what you can ‘do’ for your child in order to prepare them to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Some may consider a simple statement such as: “I want them to be happy and never have any regrets.”  Other considerations will include education and a good job.  Ask any parent, of any generation, and you’ll find out that we all have wanted basically the same things for our children.

However, in the process of helping our children to “take the next step” in becoming who God wants them to be, there’s one important gift we can give them that I didn’t mention in the above paragraph.  In fact, it’s the gift that Scripture and leading parenting experts say that your children need the most: Your time.

Jesus showed us the power of time and how it can change lives.  He lived with his disciples.  He was with them when they were joking, tired, questioning, hungry, and angry.  He walked with them in the presence of Pharisees as well as sat with them in the quiet of their own homes.  He was with them when he healed the blind, crossed the Sea of Galilee, and when he gave up precious hours of sleep to share life-changing stories with them.

What makes a difference in the life of your child is your loving presence.  That’s what they need from you.  And if you want them to be open to your wisdom and experience, you need to be willing to serve them—to voluntarily give up your rights and your time to meet their felt needs—just as Jesus was willing to give for his disciples.  Research shows that parents are the ones who have the most influence in their childrens lives.  But you have to be there in order to be influential.

Your time is what will build and strengthen your relationship with your child[ren] and prepare them to listen to what you have to say.  The longer I have been a dad, the more I see this principle is true.  Your influence to introduce them to the Father comes from your willingness to be physically and mentally present on a day-to-day basis.

Your time, your attention—even when you are tired or have other “important” things on your mind—is what builds your relationship and prepares your child to listen to what you have to say.  Love and service must come before any teaching and training.  Only then will your words to them about God’s love for them finally make sense.  Watch how Jesus does it in the Gospels and you’ll find this to be true.

I have discovered that there are different ways to spend time with kids, each with its own value and its own potential pitfalls.  Here’s three of them:

Structured time

Structure is the key to creating a safe, predictable and reliable environment for your kids. This is especially needed when your child has autism or ADHD.  Whether it’s a specific time set aside for working on homework together, time spent playing on the weekends, regular trips to the grandparents or even just a few minutes a day to wind down and chat, kids feel much more secure and comfortable if they know what to expect and when. This is not to say that your house needs to be run like a military boarding school – too much structure can be stifling and oppressive. But at least some regular activities should be scheduled, and everyone must ensure that those times are strictly off limits to outside interference.

Play Time

Play is very important to kids. As many parenting experts have pointed out, play is the “work” kids must do in order to grow and learn. As a parent, joining in on the play is not only fun for both of you, it gives you a chance to create lasting, pleasant memories and lets you keep an eye on their development. Plus, since habits can be harder to break away from than occasional activities, regularly playing together as a family can create long-term behavior patterns that will stand you in good stead when teen angst hits.

On the flip side, “play” can be challenging for some kids.  Especially kids on the autism spectrum.  I have two boys on the severe end of the autism spectrum so I know firsthand that patience is needed in this area.  There are many good sites that you can google to learn some great ideas on how to initiate and maintain play with a child on the autism spectrum.  Make sure you check them out!  Remember, think of play like a vitamin for your kid’s successful development – they need to get the right amount to grow up healthy, neither too much nor too little.

Support Time

We all need support in order to grow and thrive. Without your support, your kids will never have the confidence and security to become the people they have the potential to become. Be there when your child needs you to be there.  On the other hand, no one can do more damage to a child than the proverbial “helicopter parent.” Hovering over your child at every moment, doing things for them that they should be doing themselves and getting them out of the consequences of their own behavior are a sure-fire way to ensure your child grows up incapable of dealing with life on his/her own.

Parents, clearly you have daily obligations to fulfill and there are numerous urgent tasks to complete.  I was a single dad with three boys for six years so I get b-u-s-y!  However, it’s important that you start making a distinction between what is urgent and what is truly important. Sending that suit to the dry cleaners for a meeting the next day is urgent. Being there for your child while he is stressing over his exams is important.  When it comes to parenting, the important things are not necessarily the most urgent.

In order to allocate more energy for your child, it may be necessary to review the way you spend your time and this means prioritizing your daily duties. Turning your relationship with your child into your main concern may take some changes and sacrifices. Over time your lives change as your altered daily routine becomes a habit and hence more natural. These small changes in your daily routine can have a tremendous and lifelong impact on your child[ren].

Make sure you “subscribe” to our blog or click “like” on our Special Friends Ministry facebook page to be notified when our next post is published!  We’d love to partner with you on this journey called “parenting!”

Michael Woods, M.A. BCaBA

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods

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