Want to know what your kids want the most from you? It isn’t stuff. It isn’t money. It isn’t entertainment, toys, clothes, or freedom. It isn’t a day at Disneyland, or an expensive vacation.These are the things we try to provide to make up for what we miss. These are the things they ask for on birthdays and Christmas. These are the things that temporarily make us feel like good parents.
What our kids want most, they usually don’t ask for. They hope for it—even subconsciously, but they don’t usually mention it. They need it more than anything, but they don’t even really know it. When they don’t get it, their world becomes chaos—emotional, spiritual, relational chaos. Their living becomes confused and frustrated. They chase after shadows and substitutes, and always come up empty.
When they get it, their world comes back into order. Their emotions settle. Their perspective changes. Their hearts soften. Their countenances become whole. Their sense of belonging returns. Their insecurities diminish. Their stability returns. They become whole again.
What do kids want most? What do kids need most?
TIME with YOU.
Kids who spend quantity and quality time with their parents are very different than kids who don’t. When you’re kids spend time with you, they are deeply impacted. I’ve watched this pattern in all three of my kids at all ages. When they are lacking time with me, their world becomes restless and unsettled. But when they have enough time with me, their world becomes peaceful and stable once again.
This past week, I was privileged to spend four days with Haylee. She accompanied me on a preaching trip that afforded us some special memories and quality time together. On one particular day, we had about 7 hours of “just us.” The trip was one of the most special times of my entire life, and one of the great delights was getting to fall in love with my little girl all over again. It’s not that I ever fell “out of love”—it’s just that she and I both needed the time together to renew and strengthen our relationship. Time, life, and busyness has a way of stagnating your family relationships. It takes intentionality to see this and resist the trend. This was our opportunity to do that.
During our few days, I watched something very special happen in her heart. It showed up on her countenance, in her tone of voice, in her spirit, and in her behavior. Everything about her became more pliable, responsive, contented, and peaceful. My wife noticed it within a few moments of us returning home. Time with me changed her—and frankly, time with her changed me too! For me, it was convicting to consider of the power that we, as parents, hold over our children’s hearts just by the time we do or don’t spend with them.
And so, I took a few moments to list the ways that “time with you” impacts your children. Think about it. Here’s the short list of what happens to your child’s world when he or she has enough time with you:
Time with you makes life have proper perspective. “If Dad and Mom love me, then everything else will be ok.”
Time with you makes hardships have context. “If Dad and Mom are taking care of me, then the tough things in life will work out.”
Time with you makes the heart settled and stronger. “Because Dad and Mom love me, I can care less what the world thinks of me.”
Time with you makes the soul feel loved and accepted. “Dad and Mom love and accept and like me, and that means I don’t need to crave love from anywhere else.”
Time with you makes God’s presence tangible. “If God is anything like Dad or Mom, then I like God!”
Time with you makes God’s heart understandable. “If Dad and Mom understand my heart and feelings, then God must also.”
Time with you makes God’s love real. “God must love me sort of like Dad and Mom love me! Then I love Him too!”
Time with you makes life’s trials endurable. “My trial seemed so big, but everything seems ok when I’m with Dad or Mom.”
Time with you makes emotions manageable. “Dad and Mom help me keep a right view of my feelings and the changes in my life.”
Time with you makes the spirit rest. “Dad and Mom are for me, believe in me, love me, and care for me—that helps me rest well!”
Think of it this way—time with you does for your kids heart what time with God does for your heart. And maybe, if our kids get enough time with us, they will see God in us and through us—and maybe they will fall in love with Him just as we have! Maybe they too will love Him for life like we do! Wouldn’t that be a great reason for spending time with our kids?
Dad and Mom—you are the closest visible, physical expression of the love, heart, and presence of God that your kids will ever experience. So let them experience it! Whatever is pulling you away from giving your children time—it isn’t worth it. Make it happen and watch your kids change in ways you could never force.
God will honor you for loving them the way He does!