By Carol Cuppy
Years from now, your kids won’t remember if you had all the dishes done or if you contributed to every bake sale. But they will remember the times you spent together and how it brought joy to their heart.
The world places tremendous pressure on us to be perfect parents. We run ourselves ragged trying to check off everything on society’s list that defines what our parenting should look like. The list is subjective, always changing, and never ending. It is absolutely impossible for us to succeed in parenting if we attempt to live up to the world’s standards, yet we often continue to try. But in this pursuit of unattainable perfection, are we letting our kids down? What if we focused less on how to be a perfect parent, and instead on how to be a more present parent?”
If we are too busy striving to be the perfect mom or dad, we are missing opportunities to connect with our kids. Our attention is focused everywhere else, except for on our children. Since the world’s definition of perfection is not attainable, why are we wasting our time? Why not invest those moments in bonding with our kids?
Our kids don’t care if we are perfect parents. They would rather have moms and dads who are less than perfect, but who spend time being present with them. When we focus our attention on our children, we can bond with them and help them grow in amazing ways. Years from now, your kids won’t remember if you had all the dishes done or if you contributed to every bake sale. But they will remember the times you spent together and how it brought joy to their heart. Our kids need parents who are present, not perfect.
How can we as parents be more present with our kids? Here are five ideas to get you started.
5 Ways to Be a Present Parent
Pour Into Yourself
Like a water pitcher, you can’t fill other people’s cups if you are empty. It is incredibly difficult to pour into your child’s life if you are completely depleted yourself. Be sure to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. Coordinate with your spouse or family so that you can take some time to yourself and do something you love that recharges you.
Love and accept yourself for who you are and who God made you to be. Let this thought refresh you: You are created in His image. You are the son or daughter of the King! And He intentionally created you just as you are. You are perfect in your imperfections. And you are the perfect parent for your kids.
Schedule Quality Time
First, put away the screens. Set the phone and tablet down. Turn off the TV and computer. When the screens are on, they are incredibly distracting. Just try to have a conversation with your teenager when their favorite show is on in the background, or their best friend is texting them. Putting the screens away will help you to give each other your full attention and will demonstrate that you are present. This can help you connect in so many different ways.
Create space in your day and schedule time with your kids. Physically putting something on the calendar reinforces its importance and will help you stick with your commitment to spend time together. Create some padding around this time with your kids so that you’re not watching the clock or rushing from one thing to the next.
Plan something fun to do with your kids. Time together with all of the kids is wonderful, but also plan some days where you have one on one time with each child individually. Your plans don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. They could be something as simple as playing a favorite board game, building a blanket fort, or going out for an adventure to the local park.
Doing things together – even if it is washing dishes or folding laundry – can be wonderful times to talk, tell stories, and bond. The important thing is that you are taking time to listen to what your children have to say.
Aim For 12 Physical Connections a Day
Studies have shown that hugging is an important part in a child’s development. Having appropriate physical contact with our kids can help their brains to grow and develop. It also helps our child bond with us. Whether it be a pat on the back, ruffling their hair, or wrapping them in a hug, aim for those important connections each day.
Share God’s Love
Spending time reading the Bible and praying together as a family can be a powerful way to help your family connect and grow together. Schedule a daily prayer time as a family. You can pray for each other, as well as people you know. You may want to create and decorate a list of prayer requests with your children.
Reading Bible stories together and asking your kids thought-provoking questions about the story your just read can be a wonderful way to teach them critical thinking and how to apply those lessons to certain situations in their own lives.
You can also spread God’s love to neighbors and others in your community together. Serving at a food pantry or soup kitchen, or helping a neighbor pick up groceries can be a wonderful way to share God’s love and grow closer together.
Create a Contributor Journal
Journaling can be a creative way to process thoughts and record your life’s happenings. It can also be an amazing way to be present with your kids. You and your kids can fill them with words, drawings, and even momentos – such as a dried flower from a favorite hike. Journals can be fun and inspiring when read back months, even years, later.
Journaling might be a hobby that you take up with your kids. Take the time to write down why you are grateful for your children and the positive aspects you see in them. Then share what you have written with your children. Hearing that you notice those good things in them will help them grow and will bring joy to their hearts.
You may also want to create a contributor journal for everyone in your family. Get a journal for each member of your family and decorate the cover (or inside cover) with their name. Place the journals and some pencils or markers in an area of your house where everyone frequents. The kitchen counter, for example, could be an excellent location. Make notes in each other’s journals – quotes, thoughts, memories, jokes, Bible verses, etc. It doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to be from the heart! Discovering the blessings that other members of your family have filled your journal with can inspire and fill your heart in wonderful ways.
God’s Definition of Perfection
Remember that the way God views you as a parent is far more important than the way the world views you. In God’s eyes, you are the perfect parent for your son or daughter. He chose you, out of all the parents in the world, to parent your children. He knew that they would need the perspective, love, and life only you can give them.
Our kids value our presence in their lives rather than our attempts at worldly perfection. When we focus our attention on our children, we can bond with them and help them grow in amazing ways. What other ways can you think of to be present with your kids? Make a list and tailor them to your family. Then watch the wonderful ways that you will connect and grow together!
© 2020 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/kids-desire-our-presence-not-our-perfection/