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Only Two Things Are Needed
July 2, 2009 - Dennis Gingerich
For 20 years now, my wife has been a maternity nurse at Cape Coral Hospital. She sees brand new parents who are intimidated by the task ahead. Making sure their infant has all of the right tools to succeed in a competitive world is challenging. Raising their newborn in a troubled and uncertain world can make parenting into the future feel overwhelming. On top of it all, they may have read that raising a child from 0-18 will cost over $250,000 and they begin to second-guess their qualifications.
As parents now for over 33 years with three successful adult children and an adorable 3 year old granddaughter, my wife and I have concluded, that bottom-line, there are only two ingredients that children absolutely must have: unconditional love and clear boundaries. Everything else is supplementary and just frosting on the cake.
I’m convinced that our children were born worthy of perfect love. A child should know that they don’t have to do anything to earn our love or to keep it. We must help them understand that their value is unrelated to having perfect skin, perfect grades or perfect behavior. They should know they will have our unconditional love for their entire lives simply because they are. Nothing they can do can make us love them more and nothing they do can weaken our love. When our children know they have our unconditional love, they can keep it with them forever.
Clear boundaries are also a basic need of every child. There must be clear parameters and perimeters of behavior. A home without discipline, respect and obedience is on a shaky foundation. The best advice we heard as young parents over three decades was from a child psychologist, Dr. Dobson. He told us, “Children are like a wet bar of soap, you squeeze them too hard and they will slip out of your hand and if you don’t squeeze tight enough, they will slip out of your hand.” Parent’s have a God-given responsibility to provide an atmosphere and an environment with clear boundaries for children.
In raising our three children, we discovered two simple things we needed to repeatedly do to make sure these two things – unconditional love and clear boundaries – were communicated to them. We had to tell them often. Kids are bottomless pits for affection. Kids can’t be spoiled with compliments and unearned praise. Children get spoiled when they have no clear boundaries or those parameters are not consistently enforced.
We also need to show them our love. Everyone likes to be held and hugged. Medical researchers have discovered the physical benefits of being touched by people who care about us.
Of course, to tell and show our children unconditional love and clear boundaries, we need to spend time with them. I know of a business woman who was shaken to her core on Mother’s Day when she got a hand-drawn card from her five year old. Her daughter drew multiple pictures and the kindergarten teacher sewed the pages together with yarn. When mom opened the book, she realized that every picture of her had a cell phone pressed to her ear. What a wake up call! Now, when mom’s cell phone rings, she presses “ignore” on her phone, not on her daughter. In accommodating the urgent, we compromise the truly important. We show people they matter to us by prioritizing them and by putting them first.
Giving life to your child isn’t a one time event in a delivery room. It’s an ever-renewing process that takes place every time you show her or him unconditional love and clear boundaries. What do you think? Are there additional child-rearing necessities you would include? I would love to learn from you too.
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