When a child feels like an essential part of something, they see themselves in a more positive light. They walk a little taller. They try more things. They learn more. By contrast, a child who feels dispensable is less motivated and less confident.
Today is an ordinary day for Avery and Benjamin, two children growing up in the same neighborhood. Below is the story of their home life throughout the day, followed by some questions for us all to reflect upon.
7:30 AM: Wake up
Avery is woken up with a start. “Come on,” says Mom from Avery’s doorway, “we don’t want to be late.” Her mom is hurrying around the house. Avery rushes through breakfast and is implored to quickly get dressed before the bus comes. Her mom offers some reminders about homework while Avery is dressing, but Avery is too rushed to pay much attention.
Things are equally busy at Benjamin’s house. Benjamin’s mom sits on his bed for a minute after waking him. They have a quick chat while Benjamin gathers the energy to get up. Benjamin’s mom comments that these short talks also help her gather energy to start her day. She resumes her activities. Benjamin faintly remembers his dad trying to wake him up for a good morning hug before leaving for work. He gets up and gets ready.
8:15 AM: The school bus
Avery and Benjamin meet at the bus stop. They say hello to each other, and board the bus.
4:00 PM: The school bus drops Avery and Benjamin off near their homes.
After a full day at school, Avery is ready to relax. As soon as she walks through her front door, her dad reminds her that she needs to empty the trash because tomorrow is garbage day. Avery settles into her favorite chair to read a book, but when her dad sees her sitting down, he growls about her needing to get her chores done.
When Benjamin gets home, his dad greets him with a warm hug. Benjamin’s dad is holding a checker board. “You won last night’s game, and I’ve been waiting all day for my revenge,” Dad says with a smile. Benjamin and his dad play a game of checkers. Afterward, Benjamin and his dad take out the trash, because tomorrow is garbage day.
4:30 PM: Playtime
Avery and Benjamin go outside to play. They meet at a mutual friend’s house in their neighborhood. They spend most of the time jumping on a trampoline.
5:30 PM: Dinner time
Avery comes back home. “You’re late again, Avery,” says Mom. “You know we have to be at baseball practice soon,” says Dad. “Now you don’t have enough time to eat a good dinner. No play time tomorrow for you.”
Benjamin comes back home. Mom and Dad are already eating. “There he is,” says Mom. “We miss you when we don’t see your smiling face during dinner.” Benjamin apologized for being late. “You don’t have much time to eat before we leave for baseball practice,” says Dad. “Try to have all your dinner now so you don’t have to finish it cold later.”
6:00 PM: Baseball practice
During her turn at bat, Avery hits the ball over the left fielder’s head. It’s farther than she has ever hit the ball. She looks to her parents, but they weren’t paying attention.
While playing third base, Benjamin made a diving catch, and then quickly threw the ball to first base. He looked into the audience to see his parents smiling at him.
7:30 PM: The car ride back home
Avery’s dad made some comments about the ridiculously high cost of baseball equipment these days. Avery’s mom bemoaned the fact that her uniform was dirty from practice.
Benjamin’s mom congratulated him on his good play. Benjamin’s dad noted that he took some photos that he can’t wait to share with his colleagues at work.
7:40: Back home
Avery takes a bath. It is past 8:00 when she is finished, and her parents are tired. Mom notes how worn out she is from being busy all day. Dad is looking forward to tomorrow—there won’t be baseball practice, so he will have the chance to binge-watch his favorite show.
After Benjamin’s bath, Benjamin’s dad wants another chance on the checker board, but Benjamin decides to just watch some videos before bed. They agree to play checkers tomorrow. Benjamin's mom is drinking decaffeinated tea from the mug that Benjamin gave her for her birthday.
Do you think Avery and Benjamin both feel like essential parts of their homes? Do they each feel crucial to the harmony of the home? Or is it possible that one of them might feel dispensable? Might one of them feel like a burden for their parents?
Which child do you think is more motivated? Which one might be better adjusted? Which one is more likely to believe in their abilities to form healthy relationships, to meet challenges, and to deal with adversity? Which one do you think is happier?
Now, the most important question: Would your child identify more strongly with Avery, or with Benjamin?
How to Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “Does Your Child Feel Essential at Home?”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date], https://www.thekindofparentyouare.com/articles/essential.