A little boy once told me, “My mother is the best gift I ever got.” Those words touched my heart, but also made me think: Surely our children are some of the best gifts we moms ever received! Aren’t we grateful to be our children’s mothers?
Moms today are raising their children in a very challenging time: from the hectic pace of life to worries about bullying, nutrition, the overuse of technology and dangers on Social Media, education, and how to balance time between work and home, moms have a lot on their plates. Even with these obstacles, mothers endeavor to meet our children’s needs so they grow up healthy and have a great start in life. Let’s look at a few of those important needs our children have.
Love and Nurture. We all know that one of children’s major needs is for love and nurture. Moms today are very intentional about developing a close attachment with their babies so they develop a sense of emotional security, belonging, and safety—factors that foster children’s healthy development behavior throughout their lives.
This is true not only for girls but also for boys. A mother’s love is perhaps the most powerful, positive influence on a son’s development and life. How a mom responds to her young son—the way she cuddles, kisses and reassures, teaches, and loves—makes an indelible imprint and shapes his capacity for a great emotional start—and even affects how he relates to others later as a husband and father.
Staying Connected. While moms aim to bond with their children early-on, the biggest hindrance to keeping that connection as your girl or boy grows is the distraction of digital devices—at the top of the list of hindrances to being present and engaged with our children! This generation of mothers is the most wired, digitally-connected generation of women in history; I admire and love them!
Yet while there are advantages to this tech-saavy ability—like staying connected with far-away friends or online shopping instead of standing in long lines Christmas shopping at the mall—when there’s a compulsive sense of urgency to be posting, texting, or updating your status on Social Media, kids begin to feel like mom’s online friends are more important than they are.
While speaking at an educational conference in California last spring, several directors of early childhood centers told me the biggest changes they’re seeing in children from five years ago isn’t more discipline problems. Instead, Angie, one of the directors, said, “The biggest change we’re seeing is how many moms pick up their children in carpool line while they’re on their smartphones. Their kids get in the car and zoom in on the movie already turned on in the backseat, ready for viewing. Mom hands back a fast food meal in a bag without missing a beat in her digital connection with friends. Or she walks down the hall to the school offices, with her child behind her, while she’s attached to her phone texting or talking. ”
There is no “Hi Honey, how was your day?” or “What’s the best thing you did this morning?” No talking with their child in the car or sitting together; it’s meals on the go instead of chatting at home while eating lunch.
“The children are lacking real connection and conversation with their moms. The result we see in the classroom is the majority of these children don’t talk or communicate as well as their students did even three to five years ago.” In contrast, teachers see the parents of more verbal kids talking with them as soon as they get in the car or walk down the hall together: ‘How was your day? What is your favorite thing you learned today at school?”
Surely we must each find a way to balance digital and social media use with the vital need our children have for their moms to be present, engaged, and connected—all through their growing up years.
Being an encourager. Another strong need is for moms to be their children’s encouragers. At some point along the way, all our children will encounter adults who unkindly criticize or kids who say mean words on the playground. The world is full of people and events that discourage them, but as a mother, you have the ability to counter the negative with loving words of encouragement. Never underestimate their power!
Speaking words that nourish and inspire your children helps them grow up with confidence, hope, and even a stronger connection with you—because kids move toward people who encourage them; they move away from those who discourage them.
But let me encourage you to use “process or effort praise” (commending their efforts, hard work and actions) rather than “person praise” (complimenting their intelligence or talent—i.e., “You’re a genius” when your son makes a high grade on a math test; or “You’re going to be the next Olympic gymnast” when your daughter wins a local competition.) The result from this kind of praise? They’ll be more open to challenges and believe they can improve by working hard.
Developing Confidence. One of the greatest needs of boys—and girls—today is to develop confidence. My friend Jennifer had in mind that she was raising men, not boys, from the time her three boys were very young. These little fellas are going to be grown someday, she thought as she held each of her baby boys. I want to raise men who are confident so when they make a decision, they don’t agonize and second-guess themselves.
She’d seen firsthand in her husband’s life how a man struggles with making decisions and doesn’t develop confidence when his controlling mother dominates and criticizes him. Anything he did, his mother had a better way, “This is how I would have done it” or “You made the wrong choice; I’m disappointed.” Though he was a very bright man, he agonized at every bend in the wrong, fearful he’d make a mistake.
Instead, we can build confidence in sons and daughters as we:
- Give them room, time, opportunities and space to be outside, to explore, to use their boy or girl energy and be adventurous.
- Give them choices and affirm their decisions instead of saying, “You should have done it this other way.”
- Let them speak for themselves as early as they can, like ordering at a restaurant, instead of always speaking for them. And maybe order for you!
- When they make a mistake, respond “What can you learn from this?” instead of “I told you so.”
- When they have a problem to solve, give them practice, resources, show them how to make a pro-con list, discuss the problem together—but don’t give all the answers. “You can figure this out,” goes a long way to help kids to become good problem-solvers. If they are rescued and always told what to do, if we fix and solve everything, they develop a sense of inadequacy.
Girls today especially need moms who help manage their digital world. Many parents are involved and attentive in their girls’ lives, except for their cell phone and Internet use. There is clear evidence all around us that girls today have a vital need for moms who can help them stay safe in the Internet world and develop healthy digital habits.
Think about it this way: the Internet is like a huge city that has great resources like museums and beautiful parks. You wouldn’t let your daughter hang out in the middle of the night in the dark alleys or those parks all alone. In a similar way, moms need to make sure their children aren’t in harms way on the Internet.
Having parental safeguards in place can prevent cyber bullying, and the resulting suicides and depression that have led to tragedies all over the country. Even with teens, there needs to be some involvement—not because you don’t trust your daughter, but that you don’t trust all the people on Social Media. While I’ve referred to girls in this section, because digital use is a critical issue with girls and young women, our boys also need supervision online to make sure they aren’t engaged in harmful behavior.
Let me encourage you that rather than worrying about your kids, which women are prone to do, make time for praying with a few other mothers for your children. As you do, give God your burdens and fears and you will control and dominate less and actually enjoy your fleeting years of mothering more. Don’t put off joy until the house is perfectly decorated, your child’s behavior has shaped up, or you’ve lost those twenty pounds! Gratefully receive each day as a gift, and even in challenging times be filled with joy that God picked you out of all the mothers in the world to be your children’s mom.
About the Author: Cheri Fuller is a speaker and an award-winning author of over 45 books that have impacted people in America and around the world. In 2004 she was Oklahoma Mother of the Year and her daughter Ali was Young Mother. She and her husband live in Edmond, Oklahoma, have three grown children and six grandchildren. She is executive director of Oklahoma Messages Project that does prevention and literacy programs for children of incarcerated parents. Visit her website, www.CheriFuller.com to order What a Girl Needs from Her Mom or What A Son Needs From His Mom, or Amazon.com or other bookstores.