things that matter to kids

3 Unappreciated Things That Matter to Kids

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My son’s in kindergarten and has had some trouble with another boy in class. As my wife and I sat with his teacher on a video call, his teacher gently pointed out, “You know, it’s nice when the things we teach at school are reinforced in the home. Thankfully, your son has good influences outside of school. But not every student has that privilege.” During the parent-teacher meeting, my only interest was how the school was treating my son.

But after the call, I had a newfound understanding of a father’s influence, which kids don’t always appreciate. Between classmates, movies, and iPad apps, you might wonder as I do how much influence you really have on your kids. Every day, my son comes home saying and doing things he didn’t the day before. The influence of other kids is seen. A dad’s influence isn’t as seen, but it matters a lot—even when kids don’t appreciate it. Here are 3 other unappreciated things that matter to kids.

1. Structure

From a list of household chores to boundaries, kids need structure. Your kid will never come to you and say, “Dad, thank you for all the structure you give me.” In fact, your kids either won’t notice it or they’ll complain about it.

But what do we show our kids about their God-given value through structure? We show them we were designed with great purpose and structure. We’re made to crave order. Without it, kids experience stress and insecurity.

2. Following Through on Promises

I’ve written a ton about my failures as a dad on this blog. So, you know I’m not perfect. But one thing I take pride in is this: If I tell my kids I’ll do something, I do it. Don’t be the dad who makes promises he can’t keep. Kids might not appreciate it, or notice its value, but your word must be your bond. I believe you’re a reflection of God to your kids. If their dad doesn’t follow through on promises, they’ll have a hard time believing anybody else does, including God.

But I’ve learned that God does follow through on his promises. I take comfort in Psalm 9:10, which says, “Those who know your name trust in you because you have not abandoned those who seek you, Lord.” When I follow through, too, my kids can take comfort knowing they can rely on me. That kind of trust can go unappreciated, but your kids’ trust in you will ultimately help them know they can trust God.

3. Time and Attention

Kids whose dads don’t spend time with them or show up for them don’t feel valued.

We know from research one of the things that matters to kids is getting the right amount of attention. When kids get the attention they need, they thrive. They perform better on tests in school, have better relationships, and are more likely to keep learning with confidence. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received came from a business mentor. He told me not to spend more than two nights away on business trips. Why? Does traveling three days instead of two make you a terrible dad? No. But it’s a good practice to consider all you’re missing when you’re away that extra night.

Don’t make work your priority when you’re home with your kids. What we give our time and attention to shows what we value. When you focus on your child through good and bad times, you’re giving your child something invaluable—you’re giving love (1 Cor. 13:7). Don’t make a habit of missing recitals and practices. Kids whose dads don’t spend time with them or show up for them don’t feel valued. But God values all of us. And we should treat our kids as valuable—even when they don’t appreciate it.

Sound off: Was your own dad good or bad at keeping his promises when you were a kid?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When I say I’m going to do something, how often do I actually do it?”