I love buying gifts for my kids. Finding those special things that will make them jump up and down with excitement and throw their arms around my neck in sweet gratitude, ahhhh, I just love it! Today, it seems like there are never ending reasons to buy our children more gifts. Birthday gifts! Christmas gifts! Valentine’s Day gifts! Easter gifts! Gifts from the Tooth Fairy! First day of school gifts! Last day of school gifts! “Just because” gifts! Let’s face it, gift giving can get out of hand, and out of budget real fast. We live in a society that places great importance on giving our children all that their hearts desire, but are we giving them gifts that they need to grow into secure, well-behaved young men and women who will ultimately give their will and lives over to God? Let’s examine some other gifts we as parents would do well to give our children. The beautiful thing about these gifts is they cost nothing, yet have a priceless value.
1. The gift of being wanted.
Your children never asked to be born. They are here because you brought them here. As mothers, we all say, “Yes, I love my children dearly!”, but there’s more to it than merely saying the words, “I love you”. In the day-to-day of raising children, it’s easy to get into a routine of barking orders and giving correction, cleaning one room only to discover they demolished another…children can be quite trying some days! Those peanut butter smeared faces and sticky hands touch everything, snacks are smashed into the carpet, they argue, they get grouchy, they get LOUD, they have accidents, and as a mother it can be quite easy to robotically move through the motions of just trying to keep everyone on some measurable level of clean. But do your children know that you like them? Love is automatic, but like, well that can take some work, especially when they are going through a difficult, moody, stubborn phase. Take a look at your children, catch their eye, and smile at them. Relax from the work for a moment and let them know you are happy they are there, even in all their sticky, whiny, unwashed glory!
Some of the saddest people on earth are those who are in search of their very identity. The hippy movement of the 60’s was filled with unhappy people “in search of themselves”. And yet we now live in a world that encourages children to question the very gender which is infused in their DNA. Oh for the security of identity! Let your girls be girls and your boys be boys! Teach them what it means to be a girl or a boy. Show your daughters the joys of being a girl, and your sons the joys of being a boy. But above this, give them the knowledge of being a child of God. The identity of being “fearfully and wonderfully made”! (Psalm 139:14) Let them know that they are no accident, they are loved by an almighty Creator who made the stars and the oceans, the giant dinosaurs and the tiny lady bugs! And the same God who makes the world turn around, loves them and cares for them very much. God made them special, and loves them just the way He created them.
3. The gift of “No.”
God’s plan for every child is to be born to two married, committed, mature parents who can help provide them with the skills they need to live in this world. Parents are to be grown-ups who have experience in life and can thus teach their children what it takes to successfully navigate this old world. Children aren’t born knowing what is best for them, and sometimes their little hearts desire things that aren’t good for them. They want to do everything, experience exciting new things, and they want it all right now, all the time. This is where the gift of “No.” comes in. No, you may not have 20 cookies. No, you may not stick your hand in the pot of boiling water. No, you may not run out into the road, no matter how much fun it may seem. “No” will not harm your child’s self-esteem, rather it will establish a comforting boundary that will let your child know that they are cared for and taken care of. Oh they may pitch a fit, hoping to wear you down from your decision, but you are the parent, the life expert here, and not them. A child who is never told no becomes a nervous, unhappy child, unsure of life’s boundaries and unsettled as to what they’re supposed to be doing. This ties directly in with…
4. The gift of security.
Show me a child with parents who don’t take charge, and I will show you an unhappy, frightened, moody, insecure child. I’ve noticed a disconcerting phenomenon of parents asking their children what they want all the time. This places way too much decision making power into tiny hands not yet equipped for such. Don’t ask your child if they want to eat lunch. Tell them it’s lunch time! Don’t ask them if they’re ready to leave the park and go home. Tell them it’s time to leave the park and go home! You know it’s time to go home from the park; you don’t need their agreement. You are the adult. The power of deciding the best thing for your children needs to remain in your hands. When you ask them if they are ready to go home, of course they’ll say no! In your child’s mind, they now feel they have the authority to tell YOU when it’s time to leave the park! Preposterous! God never intended for children to be in charge. The world (especially Hollywood) loves to tell parents that it’s rude and old fashioned to command their children, expecting unquestioning obedience. It is not “neanderthal” to tell your child what to do, it’s a sign of godly parenting!
Think about this, as a Christian, we must give our will over to God. Our wise heavenly Father set up a way for parents to teach children this concept from a very young age. In teaching our children to obey the will of their parents, we are training them to obey the will of God! How on earth can we expect our children to turn their will over to God as they grow older if we don’t teach them to turn their will to us as children? Did God ask Abraham if he wanted to go to a new land? Did God ask Noah how he felt about building the ark? No! God told, then expected obedience. As parents, we need to keep the power in our hands, knowing that even when the children don’t like the lessons of pure, simple obedience, the lessons are truly for their own ultimate good.
Repeat after me: It is not my job to entertain my children every waking moment of their day. Ahh, don’t you feel better? Think about it. Before all our modern conveniences, mothers were taking care of a home that required much of their time and energy, and children were just fine, for thousands of years! Our ancestors spent large portions of their day in meal preparation alone, cooking with little more than a pot hung over a fire. What were the children doing all day long? They learned to entertain themselves! And how do they learn this? It starts with being bored, then finding something to do to occupy themselves. When my kids became too old for naps, I continued to give them two hours every afternoon when they had to play by themselves in their bedrooms. You would have thought I was the meanest mom in the whole world some days. Oh, the inhumanity of being forced to play in their room for two whole hours! But I knew they needed time each day to decompress, and I needed that time to decompress as well! I knew they were safe, their rooms had plenty to keep them occupied, and would you believe they actually survived! In fact, they not only survived, they became quite creative in their boredom. They made blanket forts, they read books, they drew pictures. One day my son actually made a gigantic “spider web” all over his room using a ball of twine! Imagination has time to grow and room to soar when a child is bored. Creativity blossoms when the mind has quiet time to ponder and wander. Your children do not need you entertaining them every waking moment, give them the gift of boredom!
Children are truly a blessing, entrusted to parents who love them and have experience with how to live in this world, while looking forward to the next. Let’s make sure that among the gifts of toys and books, we are also giving them invaluable tools that will last throughout this life and aid them toward their heavenly home!