Your children will be influenced by something, whether that’s you, their friends, their teachers—good or bad.
That's an intimidating thought.
To be their primary influence is our biggest responsibility as parents. With that responsibility comes the power to shape your child’s view of themselves.
In my other post, What a Boy Needs to Hear Daily, I mention the importance of speaking truth to our kids.
As parents, we create a lens for our children to look through. This lens, good or bad, will shape how they view the world. It will guide them in processing their emotions, having healthy relationships, and standing firm in what they believe.
Somedays, I forget that my influence on my boys is so compelling.
I forget that I need to balance my correction with encouragement. I forget how moldable and movable their little hearts are. They need me, and when I can show up for them, it will tremendously make a difference in their lives.
They need me to look up from my phone and listen to how they built the BIGGEST HOUSE EVER in Minecraft. I need to be present when they show me the beautiful rocks they found that day. I need to listen as my son expresses himself and shares his feelings. I need to volunteer at his school, so I know who his teacher, friends, and possible bullies are. I need to SHOW UP. DAILY.
I need to be transparent. Show them that I'm fallible. That I also make mistakes and throw fits. It helps them understand that it's OKAY to fail. It's okay not to have it all together. That it's okay because it shows us our need for God.
I can show them SO much by my actions—by being healthy myself. They watch me with open eyes and ears.
Some days I'm okay with that. Some days I hope to God that I haven't messed them up.
The other element to their well-being is their own choices. I can do everything I can to ensure that they will be mentally and emotionally healthy, but it's also their choice to be—which is why it's so important to allow them to make their own decisions, under your care and direction.
If you can be present when they make life decisions, you can guide them in that, but those days WILL come to an end. Their young and influential minds will someday become a teen mind, with teen hormones, and teen stubbornness—all the more reason to use your window of opportunity when they are little and be the most influential person in their life.
5 things you can do as a parent to mentally and emotionally influence your child healthily.
Have a healthy marriage
The elements that make up a healthy marriage are all aspects that will influence your son so that he can live a mentally and emotionally healthy life.
Friendship, affection, healthy communication, perseverance through difficulties, commitment, passion, humility, etc., are all things your son will soak up when he looks at the relationship of his mother and father.
Think of your marriage as a gateway to your child's perspectivism.
When your marriage is off, you are unable to be present for your child in the way they need. I say this with first-hand experience.
There was a season when our marriage was struggling—badly. Our son, unfortunately, was affected by that.
Don't misunderstand having a healthy marriage with having a perfect one.
Arguing and resolving in front of your children teaches them the skills to do this someday in their relationship. Within reason, allow your child to see how you worked out an argument or disagreement.
They need to know that arguing is healthy and essential for your marriage. Passivity or the appearance of perfection won't do your children any good.
If you want, check out all of my free marriage resources to help you in your relationship.
2. Allow them to feel things in your presence
Boys are FULL of feelings, both big and small. They need to know that they can share those feelings with you.
When you allow them to share their emotions, you can learn so much about them.
But be sure to work through those negative feeling with them.
If they are feeling jealous of someone, show them how to deal with it. If they are angry, show them where to take it.
They aren't adults who know how to work through their feelings. They need guidance and direction.
If you’re looking for a creative way to help your son better express his feelings, check out My Life Journals - Boys Edition. It’s a proactive and creative way to get your child to open up emotionally—journaling.
3. Limit screen time and get them into nature
When I walk into my son's room, I am amused by what I find, frustrated by the mess, and a little bit emotional because his room is the place that says a lot about who he is.
In one corner is a giant dead hummingbird moth he found, lying lifeless in a mason jar. In another corner is an amber-colored dried up maple leaf he thought was fascinating.
Lying on his desk is a myriad of papers with crossed-out attempts to write his name in cursive, a broken compass he found, and a pocket knife used for his many pointy stick carvings.
He is SO creative and adventurous, mostly because we've allowed him to experience nature and adventure by forcing him to go outside, discover, play, and be a little boy.
We allow screen time, sure. But we limit it. In a recent study, they found that children with unlimited amounts of screen time have more chance of getting mental health issues than those who's time is very limited.
That's science, not my opinion.
Check out my Screen Time Checklist Free Printable, to enable your kids to better balance screen time.
Sometimes you have to be creative in order to get your kids outside. Take a look at this wooden carving knife you can use to safely teach your child how to carve. Boys LOVE it, and it’s a great gateway for them to be able to use a real knife.
Also check out this Jr Tool Kit. It has real tools so your boys can start learning how to fix things.
4. Allow them to experience hardship and FAIL.
When we moved to Germany a few years back, our son was 5. We decided to put him in a fully German kindergarten (pre-school in America) to help him integrate with culture and learn German, his father's native language.
Every day was a struggle for him. It took all of me to allow him to experience hardship when he couldn't understand anyone or came home crying because he felt like a failure.
But I didn't let him give up. He persevered, learned the language, and began to LOVE kindergarten.
Had I taken him out, he wouldn't have experienced the grand success that comes after good, hard perseverance.
It's good for our boys to fail. It's good for them to experience difficult things. But we can teach them how to healthily handle those circumstances only when we are present, though—which brings me to the last point.
5. Be present and the primary influence in their life
This quote by Ravi Zacharias says it all to parents who are too busy to be the influence their boys need. He was addressing fathers in particular, but this also applies to mothers.
"If you don't influence your children, your neighbors will;
If you don't influence your children, television will;
If you don't influence your children, the humanistic, secularistic media will;
If you don't influence your children, the system of education in this world will control them until they no longer know what they believe anymore.
And we are graduating students out of university who are able to argue one thing while they can not believe anything; we send them to university to graduate them as skeptics while we supposedly paid for them to get informed."
"Children are fragile personalities with the breath of God upon them. Let us raise them with the fatherliness that God intended for us to give to them."