Childern in Todays Sess Pool of Pop Culture

12 05 2008 Articles
3 Things Kids Really Need
Author: Diane Chambers
Date: February 25, 2008
Category: Parenting

A single parent friend of mine recently asked me what he thought I should buy his teenage daughter for Christmas since he felt she had everything any teenager could possibly want. I told him that girls of that age have a strong need to know that their fathers think they are beautiful and worthy of love. I said he should buy her a nice, but modest, piece of jewelry she could wear every day. Then when he gave it to her, I suggested that he take her face into his hands and tell her she was the most beautiful woman in his life. I explained that she would remember that moment for a long time and would probably wear the necklace often because it would have special meaning to her. He reported to me later that he had done what I suggested, but went on to say that instead of her being touched and grateful, she protested and pouted because he had not bought her the laptop computer she had requested. He felt dejected, and said he was sure it was because he had “spoiled” her for so long with material goods that she simply could not appreciate a simple, but meaningful, gift.

This story is sad, but not uncommon, especially for single parents. For whatever reason — whether it is social pressure or guilt about divorce — single parents often get caught in the “keeping up with the Jones’ kids” dilemma and may engage in irrational behaviors, like overindulgence, to prove their so-called love to their children. This is actually a parental integrity issue. In order for parents, whether married or single, to maintain integrity with their kids, they must be what they say they are – parents. Instead, they become something else, like friends, banks, Santa Claus, or keeper of the endlessly growing money tree. None of these roles serve the needs of children and only cause the loss of integrity. When single parents become afraid that their kids may stop loving them if they don’t give them everything their friends have, they are operating out of a false assumption. We lose integrity when we begin to NEED our kids to love us. They don’t exist to love us. We exist to love them. Anyone who gets this concept backwards will lose integrity and what follows next is the loss of respect. Once respect is lost, many other bad behaviors follow. So, it makes sense that single parents should guard against this loss of integrity. The first step in doing this is to recognize that kids don’t stop loving their parents when they fail to get what they want. Kids want and desire to love their parents and hope that their parents will play the role they are supposed to play. That role consists of providing three important ingredients in a child’s life: safety, security and love. When parents get the role right, they no longer have to be concerned about gaining a child’s love and respect.

Safety. This is more than simply providing a home that is free of dangerous and harmful elements (which should be a given). Providing safety to children also means providing a home environment where opinions and feelings can be shared respectfully and freely without judgment. Too many parents feel threatened if their children don’t think and feel just like they do, which is silly because kids are kids, not adults. They are entitled to think and feel for themselves, which is actually an important mechanism to a child’s healthy development. The ability to think and feel for oneself helps an individual learn good decision-making, which is an invaluable tool in adulthood! Parents do well to hear their children and respectfully challenge their opinions, but shoud never try to control the way a child thinks and feels. Safety is about a child knowing he or she can come home and be free from the world’s dangers, as well as free from parental criticism that damages their self-worth.

Security. This concept allows children to live as children because they know that mom or dad (or both parents) will be there to perform the adult functions until the children are old enough to venture out on their own. This means that children should not have to be concerned with the household budget, whether or not food can be purchased this week, or if an eviction is pending. Kids need to know that they simply have permission to be children and that at least one of their parents will keep them out of the adult world so this can be accomplished. It is a parent’s job to draw the line between the adult world and the child’s world so that kids can experience growth in an age-appropriate environment. Otherwise, they become adults too soon, which has unhealthy consequences later in life.

Love. Although this is a broad and general term, as far as parenting goes, it is essential to a child’s health and should be unconditional. All people should have someone in their lives that they can say unconditionally loved them as a child. Those who cannot say that struggle greatly with their self-worth as adults. Most parents have little trouble with this idea of unconditionally loving their children, but in subtle ways they can sometimes send messages to their kids that love comes at a price. To guard against this, parents need to make sure their kids know that regardless of behavior or attitude, they are loved without question or reservation. To do this parents need to be careful to punish behaviors lovingly and firmly, but never with disgust or harsh and hurtful words. This can be difficult when children’s behaviors push their parents to experience their own anger. However, as adults, parents should be able to control their own emotions in service of their children’s feelings and sense of self worth. Children who enter adulthood without ever having experienced what they perceive as unconditional love will not only not know how to provide it for their own children, but will have difficulty accepting other kinds of love, dooming them to numerous relationship problems.

Rather than getting caught up in the “keeping up” hamster wheel of materialistic parenting, parents do better to give their children these three fundamental, and free, needs. The richness of the love kids will then return to their parents (especially once the children become adults) is more valuable than the most expensive gifts on earth. Try it and see what awesome kids you will raise.

Diane Chambers Shearer is a family counselor, divorce mediator, and parent educator in Atlanta, Georgia. She is author of Solo Parenting: Raising Strong and Happy Families (Fairview Press, 1997) and publishes The Peaceful Co-Parent, a quarterly newsletter for divorce parents. For ordering information, call 770-985-2201 or visit her web site at Diane Shearer

  • This article really made me think about todays kids and how we parent them. I really think that todays culture has a poisonous effect on kids. weather its the trash that the music industry churns out or the materialistic effect the media inflicts on our kids through television shows. Yeah your answer don’t watch but thats a cop out because if they don’t see it there it will reach them in another form. Whats the newest fad in Hollywood…..Having a child. You got to be kidding me a child is a status symbol if you don’t believe me pick up one of those gossip mags more often than not there are some celebs kids plastered on the front.

    All I’m saying is its time to take the influence of money out of raising children. I mean look at the kind of money new mothers spend on needless garbage to raise baby’s. A diaper wipe warmer come on now! We all want to act like we are concerned about wasting electricity that’s one of the biggest wastes I’ve ever heard of. How about name brand strollers that go for double to triple what they used to go for. But maybe I’m naive you really need to look good in front of your neighbors and your child ten years down the road will thank you for wasting an extra 200.00 dollars on a stroller or wiping his messy bottom with a warm wipe. How about saving that money for something that really matters.

    But I think within the next ten years all the eggs of stupidity the US has laid will hatch. Our economy is dyeing and after the housing market readjust and we come out of the current recession we may not like what we see. The US will no longer have the huge middle class disposable income for the economy to keep chugging on. But who am I to judge continue to shop at Wal-Mart for the slavery made Chinese goods and buy your foriegn cars there will be a price. Disagree with me then leave me a post of an industry besides health care or an industry which relies on tax dollars to survive that is prospering or creating living wage jobs prove me wrong.


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    2 responses

    30 05 2008
    Robert L. Rice

    Kids are America’s most precious and most at-risk citizens. With drugs and peer pressure facing them on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that mental illness and drug abuse is at an all time high. Problems facing American children.

    31 05 2008

    Thank you for your recent comment on my blog. Being a father in todays world is pretty tough and its not getting much better. You are correct when you said children are
    a precious resource. Would be nice to be able to shield them from all the evils in todays world but thats impossible. So I think our only recourse is to set a good example in the life that we show them. Thanks again for visiting my blog.

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