When my wife and I were young parents we enjoyed giving small surprise gifts to our children. Seeing the delight they experienced by receiving a special toy, book or treat was always enjoyable and rewarding. Now that we are grandparents the same feelings return when we surprise our grandchildren with little gifts.
Besides providing material gifts, parents can offer another type of present to their children. Although it often seems there is not enough of this commodity, it's something children need the most. What is this important gift? Simple: It's time! Children crave and appreciate adult attention much more than any physical gift. They desire to know they are prized and loved. Parents can fulfill these important needs by spending time with them.
In his book Bringing Out the Best in People, author Alan McGinnis described how essential it is for parents to give focused time and attention to their children.
“When one looks at certain famous families, it is puzzling that some children turn out to be so much more successful than others. Why for instance, did Joseph Kennedy’s sons excel, while Franklin Roosevelt’s did not? Certainly FDR had as good an understanding of power as did Joe Kennedy. Part of the answer to that riddle may be found in Franklin Roosevelt, Jr.’s remark that an appointment was always required if he wanted to see his father. One day, when the boy had a pressing problem, FDR listened to his son but never stopped working at his desk. When the boy stopped talking, FDR said absently, ‘glad you could drop by,’ and the interview was over.
“Contrast that with Joe Kennedy’s ferocious interest in his children’s lives. For all his shortcomings, Kennedy’s loyalty to his children was absolute. ‘My business is my family and my family is my business,’ he said. John F. Kennedy once told Steve Smith, ‘You know, when I was just trying out for the freshman team for some of those swimming meets, my dad was always there. He was always there. He did the same for all the kids.’”
The author then states:
“A father who will encourage his children in pursuing as many of their goals as possible, and who will get on his kid’s bandwagons in such a fashion can make a crucial difference in their lives.”
Just how much time does it take to be a parent? Really, it’s impossible to give the responsibility too much of it. There are basically five key points parents should consider in giving their children the important gift of time. Each of these takes planning and diligent application.
1. Spend time playing
Children ages 2-6 especially love one-on-one time with their parents. Many evenings when I returned home from work I would hear little voices say, “Daddy, can you play with me?” Sometimes we would go out to the backyard to play with a ball or swing on the swing set. Other times in the house we would play “hide and seek” or build three- to four-foot high towers out of blocks, which, upon completion, our daughter and son loved to topple.
Often on weekends we would transform the living room floor into an imaginary village. Nestled in the countryside nearby a lake, our little town, assembled with colorful blocks and Legos, would be completely furnished with toy houses, shops, roads, cars, trucks, trains and train tracks and even an airport. Sometimes I would make the children a special lunch prepared with funny-face sandwiches and smiley-face fruit. Playing with young children helps fulfill their need for attention, and it’s an opportunity to help them develop their imaginations and abilities.
2. Spend family time in both work and recreation
Children need to learn that work is an essential, rewarding and enjoyable part of life. Work is also a means of teaching them personal responsibility and to always do their best. Parents can do yardwork with their children or work with them in washing the car, straightening their rooms, cleaning the garage, preparing meals and accomplishing other household tasks.
Recreation includes time spent on developing hobbies and athletic skills. For example, as our children got older I helped them learn to play baseball and basketball and worked with them in developing their physical fitness and running ability. We would watch football games on television together, and I would explain the plays and scoring so they could understand the game and its rules. We also played board and card games as a family. We would go bowling, camping, hiking and fishing. We would go on picnics and on trips to historical sites. We visited relatives and did many other enjoyable activities together.
3. Spend time on the individual needs of your children
This includes personalized help with homework, talking about problems at school concerning particular subjects or relationship issues with other children. Since our children loved reading, my wife made it a special point to take them to the library frequently to check out books. She also spent extra time with them after they returned home from school each day. This was when problems or interests were fresh on our children’s minds. She would make time to listen carefully to them and discuss their needs and concerns.
4. Spend time in significant events in your children’s lives
This includes ball games, track and field events, school open houses, parent-teacher conferences, plays, recitals and special outings. These occasions mean more to children than can be imagined. Parents would be very wise to learn when these events are scheduled and block out time for them in their calendars.
5. Spend time to share God’s teachings and His true values
God’s righteous way of life is precious, and it’s vital we pass it on to our children. Praying with children and reading to them from the Bible is critically important, as is attending Sabbath and Holy Day services regularly. Additionally, related activities such as playing Bible games and doing Bible crossword and other puzzles together, can make learning God’s way fun. Besides that, making time to attend church socials, pot-luck meals, visiting the elderly and shut-ins can also be included in teaching God’s way of love and service to children.
Finally, God explains that children are His precious gift. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalms 127:3 Psalms 127:3See, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
American King James Version×). The way parents can show their children how special they are and how much they are loved is by giving them time. How much time does it take to be a good parent? It’s impossible to give the responsibility too much of it. Parents can be certain to find the time however, if they set priorities, plan ahead and make the most of life’s many situations.