Have you been to five different toy stores in search of that present your child “must have” this year? Were you trampled in the mad rush for the latest gadget? Are you wondering what happened to the days when children were thrilled to receive a homemade rag doll and an orange for Christmas?
I have a controversial theory about Christmas consumer madness. Yes, commercials and marketing appeal to our children, but I think it may just be something more. Is it possible our children are asking for “things” to substitute for what they really want from us? Maybe they don’t know how to ask or maybe they just know the answer will be no. They have learned adults are often willing to give them plenty of stuff to compensate for not giving them what they really want. Our future business leaders have learned to work the system in their favor. And who can blame them?
If your child could tell you, this is what is probably on the Christmas list in the depths of his heart. These are the things your child really wants from you, more than any toy or gadget.
1. Your child wants to know you love him unconditionally. You may be hurt or angry when he makes bad choices, but you love him with every fiber of your being. When he needs forgiveness, you will forgive him. If he needs help finding the right path again, you will help him find it. No matter how hurt or angry you are though, there is no doubt in his mind that you love him. Don’t just assume your child knows it either. Tell her you love her and/or hug him multiple times a day, but with the true love and passion you feel in your heart. This is not something to “phone in”.
2. Your child wants to know she is a very important person in your world. Yes, she knows you love her siblings and your spouse, too. She needs to know though, that your world would be incomplete without her in it. Your world doesn’t revolve around her, but she sees your eyes light up every time she walks in the room. She knows she is treasured.
3. Your child wants to know you love him enough to set limits and have routines. He doesn’t need to guess if his behavior will be ignored or punished severely this time. He doesn’t want to beg to be fed or be so tired he feels sick because you are too busy to notice how hungry or tired he is. He wants to know how behaviors or misbehaviors will be handled and that meal and rest times will be as regular and consistent as possible.
4. Your child wants you to give him positive, healthy touches every day. Even when it seems he would rather you sing in front of his friends than hug him in private, he stills needs positive physical contact from you numerous times each day. A shoulder rub, a tussle of the hair or some other positive touch can be substituted if he really hates hugs. Most kids though will relax into the hug after a couple of seconds and some have even been known to hug back!
5. Your child wants to know you value and respect her interests, dreams and talents, not your idea of what should be her interests, dreams and talents. Your child was created with her own “special mission” for God. You should never force your unfilled dreams and passions onto your child. You are never too old to go live out your own dreams and interests. Help your child find the ones God planted in her, not you.
6. Your child wants you to show a real interest and willingness to enter his world. Does your child have a passion for something that bores you or that you know nothing about at all? Stop right now and Google it or buy a “Dummies” book on the subject. You don’t have to become an expert on the subject yourself, but you should know enough to carry on an intelligent conversation with your child about his passion. Look for information on coming trends in the area and share them with your child. Help him find ways to pursue his passion and ways he can use it for God.
7. Your child wants you to really listen and hear what she says every day. She needs you to know “fine” doesn’t always mean “fine” and that she needs to have you ask her to “spill” about what is really going on in her world. Don’t try to solve her problem for her, just listen and hear the joy or pain in her heart. After she has vented, offer to help, but don’t be offended if she wants to handle things herself. Sometimes our kids just need us to hear them out and confirm they are not “weird” for being upset.
8. Your child wants you to know his friends and to be an extra loving, caring adult in their lives too. He needs you to know his friends well enough to help him negotiate the confusing waters of relationships. She needs you to help her know what is and is not acceptable in the way a boyfriend (or any friend, really) treats her. He needs you to help him help his friends when they need it. She needs you to appreciate and love her friends almost as much as she does. Your child doesn’t want you to be one of their friends. They want you to be the safe, comforting, helpful, guiding parent for their friends. (It’s okay to be a little fun, too!)
9. Your child wants you to help him learn how to be an adult. He needs you to teach him to how to do all of the things he will one day have to do on his own. He needs your tutoring on everything from life skills, to work skills, to relational skills. Help him practice the essentials and give him tips about what you have learned over the years. Remind him he doesn’t have to repeat mistakes to make sure they are mistakes. He can take the easy way out and take the right paths you might have missed.
10. Your child wants you to pray for her continuously. She needs to know her concerns and problems are taken to God regularly by you and trusted family and friends. She needs to know you are praying for her future spouse and her future ministry to God as well as the things currently happening in her life.
11. Most importantly, your child wants to know the only thing that really matters to you is that he is in heaven with you in the end. Everything else may seem crucial, but the only non-negotiable is that as for you and your family, you will always follow the Lord. He needs you to raise him like Joshua or Caleb. She needs you to raise her like Hannah, Mary or Elizabeth. Your children need you to ground them in scripture and dedicate them to God. They need to have no questions in their mind, that they were born to serve and glorify God all the days of their lives.
If you can give your children these gifts consistently throughout their lives, the latest gadget may not be quite as important. Even if it is, you will have raised emotionally and spiritually healthy children who are ready to serve God with all their hearts, souls and minds all the days of their lives. Can you think of any other gifts your children would really want if they could tell you?