Don’t you wish there was such a thing called Parenting University where you could learn everything you need to know to be a successful parent? Well, guess what? It already exists. It’s called the “Parenting School of Hard Knocks!”
English poet John Wilmot once said, “Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
The truth is there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is one of the most challenging and demanding jobs on the planet. However, it’s one of the most joyful and rewarding jobs we can ever experience in our lives. As parents, we need handles and hope we can hang onto as we seek to raise the next generation.
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, that you are probably in the middle of parenting the largest population in American history known as “Generation Z.” This generation of nearly 70 million in the U.S. population was born between 1999-2015. They are often characterized as independent, stubborn, pragmatic individuals between 7-22 years of age. It is a generation that values authenticity.
Like any generation that evolves and changes over time due to cultural shifts and advancements, their basic needs remain. Here are five things kids need most from their parents.
As author Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
We are all wired differently. We all have different needs, personalities, dreams, gifts, and abilities. Using personality or behavioral tools like the Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, or DISC assessments can help set your children up for success in their futures and help each member of the family grow in their understanding of each other so you can connect in ways that complement one another.
Kids long to know that they are loved and unconditionally accepted for who they are, not on the condition of what they do or don’t do.
Comparison is the enemy of acceptance. It’s one of the reasons why Generation Z struggles so much with their identity and self-worth. They are constantly comparing themselves through social media against everyone else’s “perfect” life.
How do we effectively demonstrate acceptance to our kids? By listening to their hurts, needs, dreams, fears, goals, etc., and loving them unconditionally for who they are.
Leadership is about taking people where they need to go, not where they want to go.
Children are no different. Kids need and want to know where the guardrails and guidelines are. They need to know what is acceptable and unacceptable, and they want to know why. This is why having a set of family core values is so important. Our values and beliefs determine our choices and behavior.
When discipline is needed, it is also essential to keep in mind the difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is correction driven by love. It isn’t something you do to your child; it’s something you do for your child.
However, punishment is about inflicting a penalty for what you’ve done wrong. On the other hand, discipline is about promoting growth. It says, I want to coach you and help you get better. Punishment focuses on the past, and it produces fear, guilt, shame, and anger. However, discipline focuses on the future and provides security.
Remember, rules without a relationship will eventually lead to rebellion. However, rules combined with a relationship will result in respect.
My friend Josh McDowell says, “You can fool a fool, con a con, but you can’t kid a kid.”
Kids may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do. This is why authenticity is so vital to Generation Z. When we make mistakes, rather than pretending to be something we’re not and ignoring, rationalizing, or justifying our faults, remember these six critical words: “I admit I made a mistake.” Confession and asking for forgiveness cover a multitude of sins.
Acceptance and love go hand-in-hand. However, love is a verb. Our actions show it. There are three ways you can effectively show love to your kids:
- Affection: Meaningful touch and physical affection give comfort, security, and confidence.
- Affirmation: Look for the gold in your child’s life that affirms their value and qualities. Remember these five essential words to express affirmation to your kids: “You did a great job.”
- Attention: Studies show that the average child spends 7-10 hours per day in front of their screens yet only three minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their fathers. Love is spelled TIME.