What Our Children Really Want
- 2002 12 Oct
A pastor who volunteered at a boys' correctional center one summer was interested in why the boys chose the course they did. They had already gone through the system and had been in all sorts of trouble. This pastor asked them if they could help him draw up a code for parents that zeroed in on specific areas where the parents had failed. The boys came up with the following 10 principles:
- Keep cool. Don't fly off the handle. Keep the lid on when things are going wrong. Kids need to see how much better things turn out when people keep their tempers under control.
- Don't get strung out on booze and drugs. When we see our parents reaching for these crutches, we get the idea that it is perfectly okay to reach for a bottle or a capsule when things get heavy. Children are great imitators.
- Bug us a little. Be strict. Show us who's boss. We need to know that we have some strong support under us. When you cave in, we get scared.
- Don't blow your class. Stay on that pedestal. Don't try to dress, dance, or talk like your kids. You embarrass us and you look ridiculous.
- Light a candle. Show us the way. God is not dead or sleeping or on vacation. We need to believe in something bigger and stronger than ourselves.
- Scare us. If you catch us lying, stealing, or being cruel, get tough. Let us know why what we did was wrong. Impress on us the importance of not repeating such behavior.
- When we need punishment, dish it out. But let us know you still love us even though we have let you down. It will make us think twice before we do that again.
- Call our bluff. Make it clear that you mean what you say. Don't compromise. Don't be imitated by our threats to drop out of school or to run away from home. Stand up to us, and we will respect you. Kids don't want everything they ask for.
- Be honest. Tell us the truth, no matter what. Be straight-arrow about everything. We can take it. Lukewarm answers make us uneasy. We can smell uncertainty a mile away.
- Praise us when we deserve it. Give us a few compliments once in awhile and we will be able to accept criticism a whole lot easier.
Do you know what those kids are saying? They are essentially telling parents to do what the Bible says. Every one of these principles is biblically based. They are saying, "Would you please do what God told you to, and be hands-on, involved parents in our lives?"
But this takes time and lots of it. Your kids need your involvement and they need your time.
Even the secular culture is beginning to see the myth of "quality time" as a substitute for quantity time. A team of researchers wanted to find out how much time middle-class fathers spent playing and interacting with their small children. They asked a group of fathers to estimate the time they spent with their one-year-old children each day. The fathers said they spent an average of 15 to 20 minutes during a 24-hour period.
The researchers weren't convinced, so they attached little microphones to the shirts of the small children for the purpose of recording actual parental verbalization. They discovered that the average amount of time these middle-class fathers spent with their small children was 37 seconds a day. Direct interaction with the child was limited to 2.7 encounters daily, which lasted 10 to 15 seconds each. These fathers are not taking time for their children.
Not long ago, some friends of mine lost their daughter in a tragic car accident. But unlike the fathers in this study, they had been treasuring every moment they spent with their little girl. I am so glad these parents took time for their child on that final day. The last words my friend spoke to his daughter were, "I love you." Her final words were, "I love you more." That day, she went from the presence of her loving father on earth into the presence of her loving Father in heaven.
My point is, these parents did it right. So value and treasure each moment. Take time for your kids. You will be glad you did.