The 5 things your kid *actually* needs

the 5 things your kid *actually* needs //

The other day Hyrum (my nine year old & oldest child) said, 

“Mom,” (little puppy dog face with tears in his eyes)

Uh-oh, I thought, this isn’t starting well, I hope he’s not getting bullied or something.

“All the kids at school have video gamesand I have NO idea what they’re talking about!

Whew, I thought this was something actually serious.

My response, I’m afraid, wasn’t very sympathetic. I paused for a moment, then blurted out,


Hyrum started to smile too, then said,

“MOM–I’m serious!”

“I’m serious too. I think it’s funny you think you need video games. You will have the rest of your life to sit on duff (I actually said duff), but you only have a few short years to really be a kid–to run around, to read books for fun, to play games with your brothers & sisters. My job as your mom is to provide you with things you need to be healthy & strong–like food, this home, opportunities for learning. Video games just don’t even come close to making it on the list of things you need.”

The fact that my kid is on the verge of tears because he doesn’t “have what the other kids have,” is actually a sign of good parenting.

It was one of those, “I’m a mean mom, but in a good way,” moments.

Let me explain.

As parents, from the moment we know we’re expecting, we begin planning & plotting.

We have glorious visions of our kid winning the national spelling bee, of always making the honor roll, attending Harvard someday, & winning a Pulitzer or two.

We daydream about how awesome their childhood will be–trips to Disneyland, vacations to Europe, music & foreign language lessons, competitive sports teams. They’ll always have the latest fashions from baby Gap, their hair will always be perfectly combed, & their face will never be dirty like those other kids.

In short, this kid will be brilliant, just shy of perfect, & will deserve & get everything we never got as a kid plus more. As they approach adulthood their brilliance & talent will be unsurpassed. And because of this hyperbolized view of our child’s special-ness, we’ll want to give them everything.

But the thing is, our natural inclination to give them everything they want, when they want, is actually absolutely not in their best interest.

We’ve got to curb that desire to give into pleasing our kids whims & fancies & temper it by consistently asking ourselves as we make parenting decisions, “Is this a need or want, & is it in their present & future best interest?”

What kids really need is actually quite simple.

Beyond the basic physical needs being met (proper nutrition, shelter, & a safe living environment), you could essentially sum the list up to include these five things.

The 5 things kid’s need most from us: 

  • asking (ask them questions)
  • listening (let them respond & sincerely & actively listen to what they have to say)
  • physical demonstrations of love & affection (hugs, kisses)
  • patience
  • & firm but loving discipline based on logic not emotion

Note that none of these things cost any money.

None of these things require that we have a fat bank account.

All of these things require time & attention. And these are things that can’t be farmed out to others. We have to do these things ourselves. And that’s often a hard pill to swallow.

I’m busy! I don’t have time to be patient. I don’t have time to discipline like I know I should. I have to work!

Believe me, I get it. It’s not easy to take the higher parenting road of being present, of spending quality & quantity time with your child.

One thing that our decision not to do paid activities this year has forced me to do is to be utterly present in my kids lives. Sometimes painfully so. Because I’m not the most patient person, & boy wouldn’t I love to pay someone else to teach my kids piano or tutor them.

But the fact is, my kids don’t need lessons from other people as much as they need lessons & time & attention from me, especially at this point in their young lives.

I was thinking the other day how I want to teach my kids the skill of entertaining themselves. Of being able to manage a few hours of unstructured time on their own.

If given an hour or two to just play & be, without computer/video games, without movies or TV, without being shuttled to one structured activity to the next–would they know what to do?

Could they be content with just being at home with their siblings, talking, reading, thinking?

We’re not Amish–we have a computer, a Nook, a flat-screen TV & a few DVD players. And I’ve heard many of the arguments why playing video games is “good” for your child.

But for now, I’m going to stick to being a mean mom & give my kid or book, or worse, tell him to go play outside.

And if I’m lucky, maybe someday he’ll thank me for that.


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  1. Alanna
    on September 24, 2014 at 3:23 pm said:

    I love this and completely agree, especially with the 5 bullets.

    I laughed heartily when my six year old announced that some of his classmates have cellphones. I’m not judging those kids or their families, I just found his argument for having his own phone humorous. 🙂

    • Janae Wise
      on September 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm said:

      I’m not judging those kids or their families, I just found his argument for having his own phone humorous. 🙂

      I agree! It’s funny to hear their rationale for why they “need” something. Kid’s are great salesmen though–they’re persistent & they won’t take no for an answer, which is why it’s often so difficult to stand firm in your “no” stance.

  2. Katrina
    on September 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm said:

    Amen Sister!!

  3. Jenny
    on September 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm said:

    I love this post. My 8 year old boy does the same thing. He begs for the latest game that his friends have. We have an old WII, a couple old DS’es, a first generation Ipad, and a computer. All of our stuff is old, hand me downs mostly, and the new games don’t work usually. Thankfully! But he will ask me for these games and sometimes I do investigate them, because maybe they’d be a good birthday gift? Let me tell you, most of these games are such trash! I am shocked that parents let their kids play them. Some of the boys my son plays with, use these games that are adult rated and they are just horrible. I have gotten to the point where I won’t even let my son go to their houses because I know their parents are not monitoring them. I allow the boys to come to our house and they have been playing outside (almost exclusively) all summer until this point, in our yard. If they come in to play, they beg to play on the Ipad or computer. What? I mean, I don’t get having a friend over to have them watch you play games. How boring. Instead, they climb trees, ride bikes and skateboards, and other activities. I have even seen them bring craft stuff to do on our table outside. I feel so much better knowing they aren’t playing those violent, sexual, horrible games. I know it is only a matter of time before the other parents say, “why doesn’t your son ever come here to play?” And I’ll have to explain my stance on the games. Ugh, uncomfortable! I will note, that my kids all do better when I take a few minutes each day and spend with them individually, sometimes right before bedtime. I talk to them and ask a million questions and just hug them or hold their hand. I swear, their behavior is so much better the next day and it makes me feel good too! You are so right on Janae! Be mean and don’t feel bad about it.