Tips for Being the Parent Your Child Needs When He Needs It

Our girls are all married and settling into “adult” life—babies, careers, finishing grad school and starting a career. From a distance it seems they are in a similar stage of life. However, I, the mom, see up close and I see what they need from me is different from their sisters.

This realization made me consider the variety of things kids need from their parents. Each child does not need everything on the same day and therein lies the art of knowing your child. What does your child need from you on this day or at this stage of his life?

Here are a few things your kids will always need from you. This list is not exhaustive, but a good jump-off point.

  1. EncouragementI know you can do this. And then back off and let them do it without your interference.
  2. Praise
  • You are talented.
  • You are smart.
  • That was a thoughtful thing to do/say.
  • I loved the way you encouraged your brother.
  • I appreciate the way you take extra care with your baby sister.
  • I appreciate that you feed the dog without being reminded.
  1. SupportI am here for you. Do not follow up with any judgment or criticism.
  2. Help—Yes, I said in #1 to back off and let out kids do their work, but there are times when they need our help. As I’ve often said—There is no formula for parenting. That’s one reason we need to go to God for guidance to know when to help and when to stand on the sideline and cheer.
  3. Truth—Speak the truth in a way they can hear it, in a way you would want it spoken to you. Don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate for effect (or any reason). Don’t sugar-coat reality. Speak the truth the situation requires. And then stop talking.
  4. Room to Process—We all need room to process. Even the four-year-old in his four-minute-time-out chair is processing. (Was it really worth it?) Give your child a chance to think through the situation and come to their own conclusion. Yes, they won’t always get it right. They will make mistakes. It’s part of life. You did it (still do) and so do I. God uses our mistakes for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
  5. Love—Our kids need to know we love them no matter what. We show them this by
  • Never ignoring them.
  • Always being ready for conversation or relationship.
  • Don’t compare them to their siblings or friends.
  • Establishing, explaining, and defending boundaries to keep them safe and healthy.
  1. Forgiveness—Our kids need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when we look at them we do not see their past sins or mistakes. We show them forgiveness by dealing with the issue immediately and then not bringing it back up to anyone. Yes, some situations bring consequences that linger. But we don’t let the consequence come between us and our child. God sees us as perfect and forgiven because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us (Colossians 1:22). We must extend the same forgiveness to our kids (Colossians 3:12).

Our kids need each of these things but some more than others at different times. She doesn’t always need a lecture—or what you may view as truth telling.

  • Maybe she needs room to process and maybe that means a week at home, also known as a grounding.
  • Maybe she needs affirmation because she is so buried under her mistakes that she is feeling pretty bad about herself.
  • Maybe she needs you to hold strong onto the boundaries you have set for her even though she has convinced you that you are the meanest mom ever.

What each kid needs will look different on each kid. The trick for parents is to discern what kid needs what and when. Get to know your child—his personality, temperament, the stage of life he is in. If you child is nothing like you, but exactly like your brother-in-law, and if possible, ask your brother-in-law what makes him tick. How does he best receive love, like to communicate, respond to authority, show love, learn, etc.? I listed a few resources at the bottom of this blog that will help you understand each of your kids.

Parenting is hard and time-consuming. But think about the people who took time to know you and connect with you. What did that mean to you? How much did that person mean to you?

You can be that person for your child even if you’re two very different people. It takes a parent’s unique vantage point, the willingness to know their child, and listening to God’s direction.

Of the needs listed which is easiest for you to give your child?

Which is the most difficult?


Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children by Lisa Guest, Dr. Henry Cloud, and Dr. John Townsend (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

Boundaries with Teens by Dr. John Townsend (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2006).

The Five Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2010).

The Five Love Languages of Teens New Edition: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Dr. Gary Chapman (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2010).




Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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