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6 Things My Kids Need That Don't Cost a Thing

6 Things My Kids Need That Don’t Cost a Thing

March 12, 2019

With my youngest turning 6 next month I feel like the years are flying away before my eyes. At six it seems like the last of the baby things are starting to fade away for good. She may not need me in the same way that she did when she was a toddler, but there are still so many things that she does need. Here is a list of six things my kids need that don’t cost me a thing.

My Time

Even though we home school, the number one thing my kids ask me for is my time. They don’t say it in those words. They ask me to read a book or play a game. Their faces light up when I announce that we are going for a hike. So many times I can spot the kid who needs my time the most by offering to take one of them on errands with me by themselves. I can tell my oldest needs some one on one time if she asks whether we can go for a run or hike, just the two of us.

Many times I view these things as interruptions from my day rather than what my day is actually about. These are opportunities to pour into my children, even though they often feel like they are keeping me from getting done what I really need to get done.

Consistent and Clear Discipline

The other day I asked one of my daughters why something wasn’t done. She started to cry, bewildered I asked what was going on. I hadn’t been clear in my expectations and she was getting mixed messages about what I expect. Kids need to know what is expected simply and clearly. They need to know where the line is and what will happen if they cross it.

This can take so much energy sometimes. When they are testing me, I want to just let things slide because it takes a lot of work to be consistent. These are actually the most important times for me to be consistent! They want me to be in charge and in control because it makes them feel safe.

A Predictable Routine

We don’t have a super strict schedule. It’s one of the things that we love the most about home school. However, we DO have a very strict routine! There’s no question about what happens when breakfast is finished; we get started on school. Just because it doesn’t happen at 7:35 on the nose, doesn’t mean that my kids don’t know what is coming.

They know what to expect from a normal week, and they can feel in control because they know what to expect and what I expect from them. It also helps me that we have a routine. They are in such a habit of doing things in a certain order each morning, that I don’t often have to remind them of what needs to happen next. Instead I check periodically to see that we are on track, and I have the freedom to adjust my own day as I need to.

Break From Routine

This might seem counter intuitive, but I believe that we all need a break sometimes from our daily grind. Kids need a vacation too! It doesn’t cost me anything for us to have dinner on the patio, or to make  our break from school a YouTube Karaoke session. It doesn’t take much to make a day special for your kids.

My kids love surprises, and they still talk about some of the simplest ones. One day I noticed a park within walking distance from our house that we had never visited, I suggested a walk and made sure we ended up there. They were excited at their exploring abilities and so happy to talk about our adventure to Ken at dinner. Make the small effort to make a day special every now and then. Then enjoy the simple memories it creates.

6 Things My Kids Need That Don't Cost a Thing

Screens Off

Ugh. Yes, my kids need me to put down my phone and look them in the eyes. I find this so much more difficult now that I work online, and the balance of it is difficult. I don’t know that I have any actual helpful advice here except just get it together and put down your phone. This shows my kids, that what they have to say to me is more important that my Instagram feed, or the text I’m sending.

But there’s more. My kids crave screens, and it is always the easier choice to just give in and let them watch TV or play video games. Then when a week goes by and they want even more screens. They need me to shut things down so that they get bored enough to go play outside or read a book.

Words of Affirmation

My kids need to hear that I’m proud of them. They need to hear that they are awesome and have good ideas and that I like them. I want them to hear those things so much from me that they will someday roll their eyes when they hear it. I love to try to compliment them in a way that makes them giggle. While doing a funny dance; “You look like a movie star with your sunglasses on.” There are too many negative things around them for me to leave this to chance. I want them to have something positive from me every day at the least.

What would you add to this list? Leave me a comment to tell me!


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  • Michele Morin

    OH! These words are so bracing and true to the bone. The cost in offering each of these “ingredients” comes out of saying no to my own desire for ease and comfort on this planet. Thanks for encouragement to persevere in the battle for what’s good and right for my kids and grandkids.

    March 12, 2019 at 2:09 pm Reply
    • danellsteffen

      Thanks Michele! Why does it always seem like these are the most needed when I am wishing for an easier day?!

      March 12, 2019 at 2:10 pm Reply
  • Lauren Renee Sparks

    Even with teens the last one rings true. Visiting you today from the trekking thru link up. laurensparks.net

    March 12, 2019 at 3:35 pm Reply
    • danellsteffen

      My oldest are ten (twins) and I am already getting nervous about the teen years!

      March 13, 2019 at 7:30 pm Reply
  • Patsy Burnette

    Great post Danell! Spot on! Shared 🙂 Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    March 12, 2019 at 8:09 pm Reply
    • danellsteffen

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      March 13, 2019 at 7:28 pm Reply
  • Rebecca Hastings

    What a great list! I found myself nodding along with each one. Just today I was telling my husband I miss the routine of life before the kids had after school activities (all three are in middle school). I’m struggling to find a way to incorporate more routine, even in the busyness of life. I love the safety and predictability it provides.

    And the point about screens is spot on. Working online is hard (I do as well), but I’m trying to have set times that I keep the computer closed and my phone out of my hands. It helps. And setting limits to impose boredom is a brilliant perspective!

    March 12, 2019 at 9:01 pm Reply
    • danellsteffen

      They definitely get busier as they get older, I’m amazed at how busy some families can be! Thanks!

      March 13, 2019 at 7:29 pm Reply
  • Angela Johnson

    Excellent post. You are spot on in everything. I am sharing and pinning. Thanks for sharing this!

    March 14, 2019 at 3:00 pm Reply
    • danellsteffen

      Thanks so much for sharing Angela!

      March 14, 2019 at 10:06 pm Reply
  • Jill

    Practical and valuable suggestions here for any age family. Thanks Danell!

    March 14, 2019 at 4:50 pm Reply
    • danellsteffen

      You’re welcome Jill!

      March 14, 2019 at 10:07 pm Reply

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