By John Croyle
On a recent trip to the beach, my wife, Tee, and I were watching a couple that was playing next to the water with their dog. They also had a little blonde-headed girl, who was about 4 years old, tagging along. The little girl was trying really hard to get their attention as she played along the shoreline, but unfortunately, their sole focus was the dog.
After about 10 minutes of trying everything she could to get some attention, the child just sat down in the sand and started crying. They were oblivious to the child because they were having such fun with the dog. After a few more minutes, an older brother came out to the beach with them. He sat down with his little sister, and she crawled into his lap and stopped crying. He held her for a couple of minutes, and then the two of them went back up to their beach house. Yes, you guessed it—the parents didn’t even acknowledge their children’s departure.
I’m not judging this couple, because I don’t know the whole story. This couple might be the best parents in the world. But basic observation would suggest they treat their child as a pet and their pet as a child.
If I ask your child, “What is the most important thing to your mom (dad)?”, what would his or her answer be? If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your child knows they are the most important thing in your life, then you should stop reading. This article is going to be a waste of your time. But for the rest of us, who are constantly waging war with the clock and distractions for time with our children, this piece could be a catalyst for change.
I’ve got an idea. The next time you are in the car with one of your children, just ask them, “What do you think is the most important thing in the world to me?” The answer will either confirm that you are in a good place with your child or reveal that perhaps you have some self-evaluating to do. Are you conveying loudly and clearly how truly important your child is to you?
After over 40 years of interviewing, counseling, and just talking to thousands of children, I have gotten so many different answers whenever I have asked a child this question about their parents. Standard responses are work, cell phone, beer, clothes, cigarettes, drugs, his truck, her tennis friends, golfing buddies, his laptop—the list goes on. I wish you could see the sadness in each child’s eyes when they name something or someone else that they know is more important to their parents. You only have a small slice of time to assure your child that they possess the most important place in your heart after the Lord and your mate.
It’s a very wise parent who learns and adjusts their way of dealing with their child once they realize, “It’s not about the dog!” On the other hand, it’s a foolish parent who is so oblivious to their child’s needs that they lose that beautiful little girl’s heart when she quits saying, “Mommy, Daddy, watch me!”
Join me, and let’s be wise. Your kids are counting on you!