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Articles by Mark Merrill


Mark Merrill

Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. read bio

3 Things Your Children Need from You

Our children want a lot of things, don’t they? They want toys and trips, Xboxes™ and games, iTunes and iPhones, apps and accessories, laptops and luxuries. We shouldn’t always give our children what they want, but we should always give our children what they need.  As parents, there are several things that our kids need from us.  Here are three of them.

First, tell them that you love them.

We must love our children because of who they are, not for what they do.  We must love the person, not the performance.  I tell my children “I love you” all the time, even when their behavior isn’t stellar. Love is unconditional. Our son, Grant, is now 15. We adopted him from Russia when he was 9. He’s got a very tender heart. But his pain of being neglected and abandoned when he was younger is still there.  He lashes out at me in anger with his words, “I hate you…you’re not my real dad.” It hurts. It’s painful. He intentionally tries to push us away.  Becoming attached to us with the thought that we would then abandon him is very real and very scary to him. On those occasions, when he says hurtful things, I’ve often looked him in the eyes and said, “Grant, Mom and I love you no matter what…no matter what you do or say.”

Second, tell them that you’re proud of them.

In doing so, we are not telling them to be prideful.  We’re just placing our stamp of approval on them as a parent. We’re affirming who they are or something they’ve done. At our All Pro Dad’s Day and iMOM Morning breakfasts in schools over 50,000 parents and kids experience this exercise every month.

Third, tell them that they’re good at something.

Susan and I validated each of our children in their gifts. For example, we noticed at a very young age that our oldest daughter Megan had the uncanny ability to “read” and “size up” people very quickly. She is very good in relationships. We validated that in her. She now wants to work in human resources after she graduates from college next year.

Are you giving these three things to your children on a regular basis?

Resources: 6 Things Teenagers Need

6 Ways to Build a Friendship with Your Child

Pillow Talk: End your day talking with your child

What do you think you need the most from me, attention, help or more time playing with you?


© 2011, Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at

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