YOUR CHILDREN deserve certain things, like: 1) Time. Not leftover time at the end of the day, but prioritised time. If your life is ruled by a schedule and your children aren’t on it, do something – quickly. Otherwise there’ll come a day when you’re not included in their schedule. Simply watching television together for three hours won’t cut it; you must be ‘emotionally present’. Sometimes that means letting them see your fears and insecurities, even as they witness your delight and appreciation of them. 2) Openness. There’s so much our children can teach us about themselves, about ourselves, and about who God is. Once we realise we don’t have all the answers, we become open to allowing God to speak to us through our children. That kind of receptivity strengthens their faith, helps them remain teachable, and also keeps us young at heart. 3) Structure. It’s vital, during the formative years, to establish rules and maintain boundaries. Children need guidelines and a framework to feel secure. In the early years this includes things like having an established bedtime, then moving it back as they get older. This helps them understand that age brings freedom, but not all at once, because freedom brings responsibility and they’re not as ready to handle it as they think. Don’t try to be your child’s best friend, or look to them to meet your emotional needs. Their shoulders aren’t broad enough to carry that load. Be confident in God, and in who you are. Seek outside encouragement from healthy sources. In short, strive to become the firm, gentle parent your child deserves.