By Kathy Schwartz
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — Rushing around trying to find that last-minute perfect gift, the one that will bring joy to your child's face?
Stop! There are 10 gifts you can give your child that he will remember forever. And you don't have to go past your front door to obtain them or use your credit card, either.
We get so busy we often forget to slow down and focus on the important things. We all know that we don't have enough time in a day to do everything. So we need to prioritize the things we spend our minutes, hours and days on.
Every child responds to one-on-one time with a parent. It says, "I think you are important. You are special. You can talk to me, and I will listen."
Make it a time that you talk to each other about favorite things, dreams for the future, or events of your childhood. Don't make it about correcting behavior or homework. Make it about knowing each other. Make memories.
When our favorite sports team wins the championship, we take to the streets in celebration. Give that to your children every day. Small steps are just as important as big ones. The small steps add up to a long journey.
Celebration can be spoken, written or experienced. Celebrating tells your child that you are proud of the progress he has made.
When our children are experiencing difficulty, we want to end that difficulty as fast as possible. What we must remember is that the process of learning is complicated and sometimes tedious. Our child will progress, pause and even backslide on this journey. We must be patient. Our children can sense this anxiety and in turn become anxious. If your child is not meeting goals as soon as you feel he should, talk with others to see what you could do to assist him on his journey.
Nothing lifts a sagging ego or builds self-confidence like a word of encouragement. Tell your child you are proud of the hard work he is doing. Tell your child that you know it is not easy for him, and you KNOW that success is coming soon. Point out that the journey is long, and the distance already traveled is success in itself.
Some parents write sticky notes in folders or book bags. Others leave text messages. Some use the refrigerator as a communication center. Whatever you do to encourage your child make it often and positive.
Children often talk about how they do not have control over ANYTHING. Giving your child choices makes him feel in control. He doesn't realize that the parent has chosen the choices to be made. The choices you pick will get you the same result, but the child will feel a part of the process. The simple choices are practice for those bigger choices your child may have to make when you are not around.
A child's performance is based on what his parents expect. If a child is not sure what is expected, he will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. Expectation is a two-edged sword. On one side, there is setting the bar too low and the child wastes his potential. Or the other side, the bar is set too high and your child will get frustrated and refuse to try. The secret is to know where your child is and then set the bar just a little higher. Obtainable goals build the desire to try again. Lofty goals destroy the will to succeed.
Being a model for your child is probably one of the most important gifts you can give. Practice what you preach. If you want him to read, read yourself. If you want him to be kind, demonstrate kindness. If you want him to accept others, show him that differences make the world an interesting place. Your child watches you constantly and wants to be you. Show him the type of person you want him to be.
Of all the gifts, consistency is the most difficult because life is not consistent. What you can give your child is a consistent routine and response.
Routine is knowing when and what is going to happen during a day. Discussing in the morning what the day will look like will give your child a solid base to stand on. When there is no base, a child is often fearful and unconnected to the family. With structure, when life does throw us a curve, just a small portion of that day is disrupted. With structure, even in chaos, there is hope to return to normalcy.
Consistency in your response is the most important. Your child needs to know how you will react to a given situation. If you are not consistent, your child will test the limits because he will gamble which response he will receive. If your child knows for certain how you will respond, he will choose accordingly.
Children need to laugh. Make it a mission to make your child laugh at least once a day. Make that laugh not a simple tee-hee but a tears-producing belly-aching laugh. Our children need to learn how to make others smile and how to laugh with others.
You've got to love your child, even when he is not being very nice, thoughtful, wise or loving. You are the port in the storm for your child. After a day at school that hasn't been the best, your child needs to know there is someone who loves him/her regardless.
And it is in that love that all the other gifts can be found. Ten gifts that make a difference — and the cost?
Kathleen Schwartz is a retired teacher with more than 20 years of classroom experience. She currently consults as a Parent Education Specialist for Adams Central Community Schools in Monroe, Ind.