Kids are honest. They tell us the brutal truth in almost every situation. Like when you wake up with a lovely zit right on your forehead and your kid feels the need to point it out to you at their first waking moment, as if you didn’t already know.
They haven’t formed their filter yet and so children have a way of telling it like it is. Which isn’t a bad thing, you just gotta be ready for it when it comes.
But there are some things our kids don’t always tell us. Things they should but don’t have the capacity to find the words. Or they just have no idea how to tell you. These are things they desperately need us to do for them, that often times go unmet. Tough, right?
These are the things that children wish their parents knew, so we could easily be equipped to meet their unsaid needs.
This is a sticky situation for both the kids who need them and the parents who unknowingly fail to deliver.
That’s why I created this list. To help moms like you and me shift our focus just a bit because parenting is hard and complicated and we all miss it from time to time. Until we watch an inspirational video or read a post online that hits us between the eyes and helps us get where we always wanted to be.
This has happened to me a million times since becoming a mom over a decade ago.
9 Things Your Kid Really Needs
We have the power to meet our children’s deepest felt needs with purpose and intention. When these needs go unmet for long periods in a growing child, it leaves a deep hole that they desperately look to fill with something or someone else.
If you read this list and feel that you’ve been missing one or a few needs, please don’t feel discouraged, judged, or condemned. Just take intentional action to reconnect with your kids in that area. The wonderful thing about children is their resiliency and their ability to forgive without question.
You may also read this list and think, these are no-brainers. Well, congratulations you’re probably a fantastic parent. But take a moment and look around at your kid’s school, at their soccer games, and dance recitals. Talk to many of your children’s friends. You’ll quickly see these aren’t happening for every child as they should.
We need to get it out there and talk about it. Not so we can be finger-pointers and parent shamers, but to shine a light on what’s lacking in this world. And how we as moms can make such a huge difference in this world through the gift and privilege of motherhood.
When we raise happy, resilient, and kind adults… we’ve made a tremendous impact in this world! And that’s what this list is all about.
Now let’s find out where we are…
1 – Love Them Intentionally
What does it mean to love someone intentionally? It means to give thought and purpose to how we actively show love to another person, in this case, our kids. It’s not enough to love them by providing a good home and sending them to a good school. Our kids need much more than that.
Money is the smallest thing our kids need from us… even though it doesn’t always feel that way. Parents, myself included, tend to work our fingers to the bone to give them a better life. In the end, our kids aren’t looking for that alone. Sure, they want their basic needs met and, yes, kids love asking for and spending money. Whew! I know mine do!
But what they really need is for us to lovingly learn who they are and how they need to be loved. That’s where the power and beauty of love languages come in. If you know your child’s love language it can make all the difference.
Simply showing up and taking an interest in what your child loves can go so far… even when their interest is gross, boring to you, or just plain annoying. Because sometimes they just are!
2 – Be Present and Pay Attention
This is a really huge need for children and doesn’t go away as we become adults. There are many adults in marriages where the spouse provides a good home, puts food on the table, but isn’t really there. When your spouse doesn’t make any attempt to connect with you, it hurts deeply. I know because I’ve seen it happen.
It’s the very same with kids. They want you there physically but much more, they want you there emotionally. My daughter played soccer for a couple years and she was really good and it was fun watching my little girl dominate the field with both girls and boys. During this time, I saw a lot of different parents on the sidelines.
One in particular stuck out to me. There was a little boy who obviously played soccer for many years and was very good. He would ferociously kick the ball into the goal again and again like he was in the World Cup. The crowd would cheer and you could see him immediately look where his parents were sitting to catch their approval and instead would repeatedly see his parents walking around talking on their cell phones… never looking at the field.
When I’d look back at that child, every time you could see the disappointment in his eyes. Though we could applaud his parents for both being there physically, we can see that week after week they weren’t really there.
In this amazing article, there was a study done of College athletes that asked them what their parents contributed to making them feel joy during and after their games. The answer will shock you.
It showed the power in 6 words a parent can say that can make ALL the difference, ” I love to watch you play.” Wow! That’s it! Parenting can feel complicated and overwhelming at times, but our kids are really as simple as needing us to just show up.
3 – Support Them No Matter Their Choices
I know my Type-A moms are wincing back at this one. Stay with me for a second… please. I didn’t say “accept” all their choices, I said to support them no matter what their choices are. Support your child, not the choices.
Life is hard and we all need a support system. We also all make mistakes and miss the mark from time to time. And it’s really hard to live life feeling like when we make a bad choice or totally screw up, that our support system is always in jeopardy.
Sure, it sucks to have a kid that can’t seem to get it together or a teenager or young adult that looks on the surface like a total disappointment despite how you raised them. I know this because I was that screw-up kid. I was an angry, hurt, and messed up kid for a lot of reasons I can’t get into here. But the one thing my parents did was support me every step of the way. NEVER my awful choices… ME.
How did they do this? By always keeping their loving doors open, never shaming me even when it was justified, and praying incessantly for me. They never gave up on me. And though my parents weren’t perfect, I always knew I was loved. And they taught me about Jesus who loved me unconditionally. And that was what I believe made all the difference in turning my life around.
4 – Say No And Give Them Borders
Yes, I said it. Our kids need us to say no and they need us to give them safe and healthy borders. Kids that have parents that say yes to almost anything, even the questionable things, are telling their kids they don’t care about them.
It’s true. Though your kid may be kicking and screaming because they can’t go to the slumber party at Amy’s house, they know way under the surface that you care. That might not be helpful right at the moment, but it’s the hardest decisions of love that linger the longest.
In this crazy, upside down world we live in, I say NO a lot. I don’t really have a choice because I love my children. And it’s my job to protect and lead them through the tough choices and teach them how to make better decisions. For example, at my daughter’s sixth-grade orientation last year, her teacher mentioned a tip about taking your child’s phone and keeping it in your bedroom at night.
At the time, I’d never thought of this because my daughter never gave me a reason. I’m so glad I heard this tip because it made me see the importance of simple ways I can remove the opportunity for her to be accessed at all hours of the night. It’s unnecessary and has the potential to be dangerous.
I treat social media accounts the same way. Our children don’t need unfettered access to unfiltered content on social media at very young ages. You can read more on why here.
Creating borders helps your child know how to place healthy borders for themselves later on.
5 – Let Them Live Their Purpose
I believe every person born on this planet has a God-given purpose. A purpose that was given to them by their creator. We may have grown them in our wombs, but God gave them life and purpose. We need to honor the gifts they’ve been given and help them grow in them.
Our kids need us to tell them they are special and unique and even when they’re scared and feel totally unqualified. That they need to discover and pursue their purpose with passion and intention.
Too often parents want their kids to pass on the family business, whatever that may be. Or to choose a more “sensible” profession instead of the one in their dreams. And I’m talking about when they’re older and not their dream of becoming a princess or Superman.
We often try to create a life plan for our kids without ever considering they already have one. Our job as parents is to help them find it and to embrace it.
There are millions of depressed, suicidal, and hopeless adults who were pressured to pursue a “sensible” career that was totally outside of their purpose. And though they may have attained success in the world’s eyes… they feel empty. Though we may not understand it, we owe it to our kids to lead them into their purpose instead of away from it.
6 – Discipline Them
Just like our kids need to be told no, they also need and want to be disciplined. The Bible teaches that we discipline those we love. There’s so much truth to that. Discipline isn’t necessarily punishment, it’s the intentional act of shaping and molding into the right behavior. And that takes work and compassion.
It doesn’t require love to want someone who’s done something terrible to face punishment. But it does require love to allow them to face that punishment while teaching and guiding them into the right behavior.
We don’t want to discipline our kids with the “rot in jail and throw away the key” mentality. Yes, punishment and consequences are all a part of the discipline process because that’s what prepares them for real life. But it’s also the compassionate and sometimes time-consuming teaching of the right behavior that makes all the difference and shows how much we love our child.
7 – Give Them One on One Time
Tricia Goyer shared this concept from her book Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. It was so simple, yet profound. But it does require endurance on your part. And it’s an investment of your time, depending on how many children you have! Yet, it’s time well spent.
If your spouse and your children each have your undivided “eyes only” attention each day, it sends a powerful message to them – YOU Matter. And there’s no revelation more powerful than that. Try carving out small 10 minutes times for each person, each day. And then work your way up as you develop discipline in this habit.
Here are my kids and I playing at the park after a very long day. But our sacrifices go a really long way!
8 – Give Them Independence
Kids need space and independence to grow and learn how to make good choices. This may seem to be in opposition to “be present” but it isn’t. Giving your child independence simply means allowing them to work things out on their own… with your guidance.
This teaches them about how their actions have both positive and negative consequences. And as they get older they need to be able to safely make both good and bad choices. You’ll find that in doing this they learn to self-correct at a much faster rate than us always doing it for them.
Just remember to give large doses of grace as they will make mistakes!
9 – Embrace and Love Their Uniqueness
In this “fit in or get out” world we need to be intentional about embracing our children’s uniqueness. Our kids need us to affirm that though their uniqueness makes them stand out, it’s that uniqueness that makes them special.
As a child’s minister years ago, I taught my kids that it feels uncomfortable to stand out and be different. And we have this desire to blend in with what the world says is beautiful, talented, or cool.
But I asked them to think about the biggest stars and icons in the entertainment industry and describe what makes them more of a star than all the other entertainers. And the majority of the answers were… the biggest stars worked very hard to stand out and be different.
Think of Lady GaGa and Michael Jackson. Their biggest claim to fame is doing what no one else has done before… to produce a sound no one else has heard before. That takes guts, confidence, and the ability to fully embrace their uniqueness.
As parents, this is probably the hardest thing to do. But no matter how many times you tell your daughter her curls are beautiful or that your son’s bright red hair is amazing, and they brush it off… keep saying it. Until they believe it.
I hope this list gives you some inspirations on ways to be more connected with your kids. Let’s face it, we all fall short of hitting these perfectly – especially in busy seasons.
Perfection is the enemy of progress and it’s better to be aware and make changes than to try for perfection any day. What are your thoughts on this list? Did I miss anything? Please add in the comments below!