The Single Most Important Parenting Action We Can Do Today

The Single Most Important Parenting Action We Can Do Today

My dad apologized a few years back for his distractions throughout my childhood. He wrote, “I am deeply sorry.” “I hope that you knew how much i loved you.”

He didn’t have to go into details about his regrets. I was aware. I remembered.

What else do I remember?

Every day after school for more than a decade, I would walk across campus to my father’s office. Upon arrival, my dad would be sitting at his desk with piles of books and papers. The empty chair next to him, although it was likely for a co-worker who needed curriculum assistance or a student in college seeking scheduling help, I always thought that the chair was for me.

Dad would smile and look up at me from whatever he had been doing. As if on cue, he would place the cap onto the black felt tip pen he used for grading papers or drafting notes. My signal was the pen cap.

My dad wanted to know about my day. Some days, I would tell him just a few details, while other days, I would go on and on for hours about something dramatic or exciting that had happened at school. My dad would nod and occasionally add his own two cents. My dad always smiled, as if hearing about my day was the best part of his day.

It was a routine. My dad and I talked after school from the first grade until my senior year of high school. I don’t recall a single time that he told me he couldn’t speak now. This was true whether he was working on his dissertation or dealing with difficult faculty issues. My dad was there when I said.

He wasn’t perfect. He sometimes lost his temper. He was overworked. He had periods of depression.

Even through the tough times, my father always listened. He never seemed too busy, distracted, or lonely to listen to my opinions and thoughts.

I don’t believe what critics claim–that giving our children our undivided focus creates children who think the world revolves around them–but instead, I do: A parent who listens to their child makes one who believes that they are a person who matters in the world.

You will have the courage to tell the driver, “Let’s get out of the vehicle.”

You have the guts to say No to substances that are harmful and can affect your decision-making abilities or prematurely end your own life.

You will have the confidence and courage to stand up for someone when they are being treated unfairly. You can admit that you made a wrong decision and try to improve next time.

Instead, I spoke up. Instead, I spoke out. Why? Why? Because my father listened to me when I was growing up.

Now, I am the proud mother of two gorgeous girls. I made a vow to my daughters when they were born to pass on my father’s soul-building gift of listening to them. Over the last decade, I have used five powerful methods to reinforce my children’s sense of their voice.

All of these actions are easily achievable and can become daily habits with some time and effort.

5 Ways To Give Your Child A Voice:

1. When they speak, stop moving and stop what you are doing.

You can show your kids that you care about their opinions, even if they are trivial, by looking at them.

As the conversation grows, it will become more challenging.

Tip: When your day is full and you are unable to give your child your undivided focus, schedule a time when you can be present at all times.

Perhaps it’s right before bedtime or after school. My older daughter began to ask for “talktime” at night when she was just three years old. This involved her asking me innocent questions and telling trivial stories for ten minutes, and I gave her my full attention.

We still talk every night, even though she is twelve years old. The topics and questions have become more serious, and I’m grateful to be a part of the discussion.

2. Respect their words.

It may take some time for them to put their thoughts into words. You don’t need to finish their sentences. They will.

Their opinion may be totally wild. You don’t need to agree.

They may remember things differently. You don’t need to be “right.”

You can strengthen their voice by giving them time to express themselves.

3. When possible, let them speak for themselves.

My children are encouraged to speak up when they have something to say to the coach, waiter, or sales clerk. I let them practice their words first and then encourage them to speak out.

I’ll never forget the moment we were at a parent-teacher conference for my child in fifth grade, and the teacher asked us if we had concerns. My daughter spoke quietly to tell me that she loves helping her fellow students, but one particular student made her uncomfortable. The teacher replied, “I understand.” I understand.”

I was relieved to hear that my daughter was able to express her feelings of discomfort in order to protect herself. The teacher’s response validated my daughter’s feelings.

4. They can be experts in something.

My younger daughter, who was only four years old, could not find my car in a parking lot in a shopping mall. I feared that it had been stolen. She pointed out quickly that we weren’t in the correct section and guided me to the right place.

She was beaming. That night, I called her “The Parking Lot Expert”. She’s nine, and she still says, “Don’t worry, mom!” “I remember where we parked!”

She’s also known as ‘The Name Specialist’ in our family because she can always remember people’s names. She is also referred to as ‘The Music Expert,’ as she can play and tune her instruments as well as sing beautifully.

When children are acknowledged and affirmed for their talents, they soar. Letting them lead gives them the confidence to express their wisdom and skills.

5. When you hear disturbing information, pause before responding.

You can try saying this when children reveal shocking information or admit to a bad choice: “Thanks for trusting me.” You did the right thing by telling me .”

It only takes one explosive outburst, no matter how angry or scolding you may be. This can shut down all future communication with your child.

Thank you for trusting me. This opens the conversation to the present and the future. Consider who you would like them to confide when
They are afraid, hurt, or worried. You can be the one to speak calmly and with grace in difficult times.


********* As a parent, you are aware of how challenging this job can be. You will have days where you’ll be dealing with serious life issues. You will have days where nothing goes well. You will have days where you won’t be able to smile and when harsh words are used.
They are spoken too quickly. When you are feeling down, don’t say, “I failed” or “I was a bad parent.” Instead, I encourage you to find the strength, patience, and resolve to accomplish one goal: Listen.


Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart.

Someday, our children may find themselves in a tough situation. They will have to choose whether they want to suffer silently or speak out. Perhaps that’s the moment when they’ll remember your eyes and the way you nodded your head.
And they’ll be reminded suddenly that their voice has value. When you start to believe that your voice is valuable, it can change your life.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

It is a great pleasure to have Rachel Macy Stafford share my blog. She gives parents a wonderful perspective and encourages us to adjust priorities and focus in the season of parenting.

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