Most Important People
a press conference last year, President Clinton, addressing the
flap about the First Lady in her interview with Talk magazine, said,
"But I can tell you this, as I think about other children in
the world and in our country that have difficulties growing up,
I am convinced from my own life and from my research and from my
experience with other children, the most important thing is that
every child needs to know growing up that he or she is the most
important person in the world to someone. And I knew that, so
I knew that."
Association of Independent Schools (NAIS 2001)
by Dane L. Peters
have one characteristic in common: they know, without doubt, that
they are loved, that they are the most important people in the world
to someone else. Helping our children feel this is not always easy.
It requires diligence, perseverance, and vigilance. Ironically,
when we need to devote the most time to our children, it is often
the time when spousal relationships and careers also scream for
attention. But if we wait for our careers to settle in and financial
pressures to dissipate, we will miss the boat. Our children will
be grown and gone, and, in one more ironic twist, we may find ourselves
longing to have our children spend more time with us. The prophetic
lyrics in Harry Chapin's song, "Cats in the Cradle" always
command my attention. "When you coming home, Son?" "I
don't know when, but we'll get together then, Dad. We're going to
have a good time then."
children the feeling that they are the most important people in
your life is the best gift you can give. In an era when the economy
dictates that most parents must work full time out of the home and
the consumer culture distracts us from familial relations, it is
easy to overlook our relationships with our own children. But we
do so at our own peril.
are and how they feel about themselves emanate from how their parents
regard them. Children are astute they have a veiled sixth
sense about how they are perceived. When mothers and fathers have
other lasting issues or goals that do not include their children,
it is only a matter of time before children sense this and begin
to flounder. Homework, peer relationships, and behavior begin to
take a turn for the worse. In their book The Students Are Watching,
Theodore and Nancy Sizer eloquently remind parents, teachers, and
schools how accurate and sensitively aware children are in their
assessment of the adult world.
Here are some
ways to let your children know that they are the most important
people in your life:
- On a consistent
basis, attend their athletic events, school plays, parents' nights,
- Hang artwork,
good papers, and news clips on the refrigerator and in conspicuous
places around the house.
- Read, play
games, swim, play ball, tennis, golf, etc. together; set aside
time that is just for your children.
them to participate in activities that interest you.
- On a consistent
basis, make it a point to eat together at the same table
at home or in a restaurant. Encourage your children to express
their views and opinions, and listen to them.
make the tough decisions that force you to give up something important
in your life in favor of your children.
- Use money
for their bank accounts, not on things they want.
- Say "no"
to at least half of the things they want. Do not overindulge them.
tell your children how much you love them; use hugs to reinforce
- Get to
know their friends. Make your home an inviting place for your
children and their friends.
in their lives by coaching, baking, driving to the movies, going
to the movies.
than assigning chores to your children, do jobs together; do evening
work in the same location.
while in a muse, my thoughts returned to a time when my young son
squeezed my hand and looked up at me a profound and simple
gesture that helped me realize I made the right choice in leaving
work early to watch his soccer game. If I had known that it was
that important to him, I would not have given it a second thought.
When it comes to time with our children, we should have few, if
any, second thoughts. Letting our children know that they are the
most important people in our lives, particularly throughout the
early years, is critical to their development, their sense of self,
and to how they will look at life as adults.
Peters is headmaster of Mooreland Hill School (Connecticut).