‘Tis the holiday season… now, I understand that there are many other religions out there, so no disrespect is intended here, but at this moment, there are millions of children hearing the story of St. Nick/ Santa Claus who are on extra good behavior because, hey—the jolly red man is watching and, to get on the nice list, they have to behave. But what about parents; what do we need to do to make the nice list?
Good character and being an all-around “good person” certainly come into play, but there are a few people we often overlook in our quest to make nice with Santa: Our kids top that list.
As we try to “do it all,” we juggle work, partners and spouses, our own parents, siblings, friends, volunteering, and social commitments. And in the process, we often forget how to truly spend time with our children. Sure, we’re around—but how often do they get our undivided attention?
I’m not going to give you the “put away your cell phone” chat (no promises—it may surface another day), but I am going to tell you that true attention makes a lasting impact in a child’s life.
When we give attention—real attention—our child feels valued and knows that they are important to us. As a result, their confidence grows, and when they have confidence, they can do most anything.
Confident children will try new things and be open to taking advantages of opportunities that may serve them well. And if those attempts fail, they’ll have built the resiliency to get up and try again or try differently.
In contrast, when we ignore our children—or simply put them behind other things in our life, they know and that knowledge makes them wonder about their own place and significance in the world. After all, if their own parent—the single most important person in their life—doesn’t take notice, in their mind, who will?
It’s up to us as the first line of defense and offense in our children’s lives to do everything we can to help them become the best versions of themselves. First on that list should be our own actions. You may not have hours a day to devote, but as with so many things, it isn’t necessarily about the quantity of time—it’s about the quality.
Take 30 minutes to watch a show with them that they like—and leave your cell, tablet and computer put away so you can truly watch it with them. At their next practice, ignore the other distractions and watch them; you may be surprised how often you find them checking in on you. After that practice, make a point to mention to them positive things that you noticed about their performance and accomplishments. Take time every day to have a real discussion with them with no agenda of your own other than simply knowing what is going on in their life and how they’re doing—beyond the typical one word answer.
Those small amounts of time every day may seem minimal by quantity, but they’ll make a huge difference with your child and how they feel about themselves and you—and in the long run, in the person they become for life.
Attention is about more than simply clapping or cheering when convenient. It’s about showing interest, letting them know they matter, and building their confidence in themselves and the person they’re becoming. Santa may not always be watching us as adults—but our children are. Let’s remember that.
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