Your children will never forget the special times they spend with you. Aren’t those some of the memories you treasure most from your own childhood—when your parents showed their love in the form of time and attention?
Children thrive on personal attention, and if they don’t get it, just like the rest of us, they feel bad, unimportant, or even rejected. You don’t always have to spend a great deal of time with children to make them know you love and appreciate them, but you do have to spend some—and the quality of that time is just as important as the quantity.
Time spent with your children is not only the greatest gift you can give them, it’s also the greatest investment you can make in them. Nothing else will make a more lasting difference in their lives. As someone once wisely said, “Your children need your presence more than your presents.” Play with your children, read with them, hold them, encourage them, enjoy them. Go for walks or just sit around together and talk. Ask questions and listen to their answers—really listen.
If you’re like most parents, you have more demands on your time than you can possibly meet, and time with your children gets crowded out when emergencies come up. You rationalize that there’s always tomorrow for them, but your children need you today.
Determine how much time you need to spend with each of your children each day or each week, and schedule it. Consider it a top priority, an appointment that must be kept. If a genuine emergency happens, you may need to reschedule your time with your children, but don’t cancel it. If you find that you frequently have to postpone your time with your children, rethink your priorities and plan, and come up with another plan that will work.
When older children are having problems, they need even more of your time and you need to be even more attentive. Don’t be too quick to offer solutions or advice, and try not to sermonize. Hear them out completely before you say anything, and help them reach their own right conclusions, if possible. Then pray and take time to hear God’s still small voice in your heart and mind. He’s always ready to answer your questions, and you’ll be amazed at the solutions He will give. (See Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers, in the Keys to Parenting series, the sections entitled “A Parent’s Best Friend” and “Listening to Jesus Time.” Also Hearing from Heaven, from the Get Activated series.)
In addition to the time you spend with your children, you also should set aside some time to pray for them. This is another thing that won’t happen unless you treat it as a priority. You have to make time. Praying for your children is a wonderful way to gain a better understanding of them. God is able to show you things about them that you could never learn any other way. You’ll also discover how great His love is for them, and that will cause you to love them all the more. He will fill you with His love, which can carry you and them through anything.
Many parents of grown children will tell you that their greatest regret is that they didn’t spend more time with their children when they were small. You’ll have to sacrifice other things to do it, and in the beginning you may feel it isn’t the best use of your time, but keep it up and you won’t be sorry. Every minute you give your children is an investment in the future. The rewards will last for eternity.
Being there for your children makes a great difference in their lives, even when you don’t think you are doing a lot for them or accomplishing much.
A successful young attorney said, “The greatest gift I’ve ever received came in a very small package that was light as a feather. My dad gave it to me one Christmas. Inside the box was a note that read as follows: ‘Son, this year I will give you 365 hours. An hour every day after dinner is yours. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about, we’ll go where you want to go, play what you want to play. It will be your hour!’ My dad not only kept that promise, but every year he renewed it. That was the greatest gift anyone ever gave me. I am the result of his time.”—Cited in Moody Monthly
The best inheritance a parent can give to his children is a few minutes of his time each day.—Orlando A. Battista
If we “train up a child in the way he should go ... when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). We need to educate and inspire and encourage our children, and most of all we need to point them to God and build their faith in His Word. If we will do these things and set the right example, they will have what they need to carry them through life.—David Brandt Berg