Written by contributor Amanda Morgan of Not Just Cute.
Valentine’s Day is upon us, and the web is abuzz with all kinds of brilliant ideas for making the day special for your kids. You can write them secret love letters requiring spy-grade decoder wheels to translate. You can send them on a sweet and simple scavanger hunt for a fun surprise. And you can make a special V-Day breakfast that’s as simple or complex as you like. All of these are spectacular ideas, and I plan on putting a few of them to work in my own house this week.
But while these celebrations are fun and important, they aren’t nearly as important as the gifts of love we can give our children all year long. Here are just a few of the most important gifts we can give every day.
Give Them Your Time.
Many great debates have been had over whether it matters more to give our children quality time or quantity time. The oversimplified answer, however, is YES.
Our children need quality time – one on one dates, memorable trips, and big events. But they also need quantity time – simple daily routines that may seem mundane from the outside, but accumulate to create security and warmth. Quantity allows for serendipitous moments when poignant questions emerge from tiny voices in the back seat of the car or when hot tears are noticed one second before disappearing on a shirt sleeve as a child walks in from school. We give one of the most valuable gifts, when we give our time, our presence, and our attention.
Give Them Roots and Wings.
Children need both boundaries and freedom. It seems an incongruous pair, but in reality, the balance of the two creates the best environment for development. I often explain it by asking people to envision a playground swing. The swinging, soaring motion is invigorating and freeing. But at the same time, you’re being restrained within safe boundaries by the swing’s construction.
Without the restrictions, you’re simply hurtling through space, ready to crash at any moment. Without the freedom of swinging, you may as well just sit on the park bench. The balance of the two, freedom and boundaries, creates the ideal experience.
Our children need that balance. The freedom to make choices whenever it’s appropriate, but also the boundaries that let them know we love them enough to teach them and to protect them.
Give Them Room.
Room to grow, to be different, and to be authentic. Room to make their own choices, to make mistakes, and to make amends. Room to wonder, to question, and to not quite figure it all out just yet.
Give Them Responsibilities.
Many parents would wish to give their children self-esteem and confidence. But these aren’t gifts we can give them. They are byproducts of experience. We can give our kids the chance to be responsible, to be in charge of something. When we do, we are not just giving them a task, but we’re giving them our trust. That can be a powerful moment in the life of a child.
Give Them Unconditional Love.
Famed psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner famously said that what every child needs most is an adult who is absolutely crazy about him or her. Our kids need us to be their biggest fans, their #1 support crew, and their safest sounding board. They need to feel loved in those moments when it’s easy to feel judged. They need to feel safe when failure seems inevitable.
They need to know that our love for them isn’t saved for special days. It doesn’t hinge on performance, accolades, or scores. It doesn’t even rely on compliance or good behavior. We can express disappointment and enforce consequences, but one message must be clear above all else: You are loved, always.
What are the simple, everyday ways you show love to your kids?
Amanda is currently offering an ecourse based on her ebook, Parenting with Positive Guidance: Building Discipline from the Inside Out. The first session became available TODAY, but registration has been extended through this week. Sign up today to add to your positive parenting toolbox. (Be sure to use the “TEAM” discount to get the ecourse for two of you for less than the cost of a single registration!)