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Become an Everyday Hero
Focus on four overlapping elements of reliability, and you'll become a hero to a child.

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Scott Rubin, Willow Creek Community Church's junior high ministry director, counsels adults to stay connected to kids by actively showing concern for what's happening in their lives. "Even though your child might act like he doesn't want you to ask about his life, the opposite is true," Scott says. "Your kid needs to know someone, especially you, cares."

To be present. Possibly the most powerful way to show you care about a child, and to establish yourself as someone he or she can count on, is by being there. Yes, our busy personal and work lives often make this very difficult. Yet children notice, and thrive, when mom or dad (or a mentor) shows up.

Psychologist Madeline Levine says, "Our children benefit more from our ability to be 'present' than they do from being rushed off to one more activity. Try to slow down. It is almost always in quiet, unpressured moments that kids reach inside and expose the most delicate parts of their developing selves."

To understand. A child frequently needs an adult to set aside the temptation to instruct or give advice in favor of simply sharing in the moment at hand: a moment that offers a reason to cheer, to laugh, to cry—and always to listen. Your child will see these reactions as tangible expressions that she can count on you to understand the circumstances she is dealing with.

My daughter and I enjoy simple date nights that usually involve dessert. One evening we spent our first hour laughing and chatting over nothing important. She has a wit that always makes me chuckle. Then Erin began to describe a difficult situation she faced with a friend, and soon tears filled her eyes as she shared her hurt feelings with me. I count that second hour as one of the most important I ever spent with my daughter, even though I probably spoke fewer than a dozen words, none of which were instructional. More importantly, I looked her in the eye and kept waving off the waitress—Erin needed someone to listen, distraction-free. On our drive home she said, "Thanks for talking with me. I feel lots better now."

Sometimes the words kids really need to hear are those they say to a caring adult willing to listen.

To keep commitments. If you can agree to only one action item from this column, then I suggest you become great at keeping commitments to your child. Big or small. Short term or long term. Why? Because you can hit homeruns on the previous four points and still lose the game if you strike out on keeping your word.

In a survey completed by 175 fourth- and fifth-grade children at a church, only 40 percent rated their parents' ability to keep commitments as "always." More sobering still is the fact that twenty-four percent rated parents "never" or "sometimes" able to keep a commitment.

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