INSIDE: Learn how to encourage your kids with a God-centered approach.
My 13 yr old son desperately wants to play football in the fall. While he plays with his friends every chance he gets, he has never played on a team. Not only that, he is small for his age – like “scraping the bottom of the growth chart” small. Yes, he is fast and yes, his size gives him great maneuverability, but, allowing him to think he is going be a star receiver just because he can run circles around our neighbor is setting him up for major disappointment. It is important to find a balance between encouraging your kids and helping them set realistic expectations for themselves.
Parents habitually tell their children, “You can be whatever you want to be.” However, if your child can’t stand the sight of blood, vomit & other seemingly gross bodily fluids, she will not be a successful doctor. If your child gets terrible motion sickness or has the fear of heights, he will not make it as a pilot. If your child can’t carry a tune in a bucket, kiss the title of American Idol goodbye! The reality is just because our kids WANT to be something, that doesn’t mean they have the necessary talent, personality or physical/emotional capacity to BE what they want. And that is OKAY!!
As a Christian parent, it is your job to effectively encourage your kids to be what GOD wants them to be.
Encouraging Your Kid 101
LESSON 1: SANDWICH CORRECTION
A common way to point out an undesirable behavior in anyone (adult or child) is to sandwich it between 2 affirmations. The idea is that you correct someone without completely crushing their spirit. This can be a very effective (and kind) way to correct your kids when you see a behavior that needs to be improved upon. My 2nd-grade daughter is a very good writer but does not care much about her handwriting…
Example of Encouraging with an Affirmation Sandwich: The imagination you used in this assignment for school is wonderful! In your excitement to get your thoughts down, your handwriting got pretty messy and I am having a hard time reading it. Next time, try slowing down and focus on neater handwriting. This will make the story easier to read and even more enjoyable. Great job using your God-given gift of creativity to express yourself.
Be careful because there is a downside. Corrections often outweigh affirmations. So if you are ONLY using this technique, your kids will start to ONLY hear the correction. They may start putting walls up as soon as your start affirming them because they know what’s coming next – hearing what they are doing wrong! One way to EFFECTIVELY ENCOURAGE your kids is sandwiching a correction between 2 positive statements. But, it is important to sometimes ditch the correction and just focus on the positive.
LESSON 2: BE STEADY
Encouraging your children must become a pattern THROUGHOUT your parenting to be effective. It’s easy to encourage our kids to train hard for a sport, study hard for a test and practice hard to learn a specific skill. But, if you ONLY ever encourage your kids to perform well, you unintentionally create a “works-based” approval system in their hearts. A steady outpouring of affirmation throughout their day, in moments when they are NOT seeking praise is another important way you can EFFECTIVELY ENCOURAGE your kids.
Example of “Random” Encouragement: My 5 kids are always fighting over who gets to sit next to me on the couch so when my 5yr old was edged out by my 8yr old the other morning, I knew there was potential for a huge temper tantrum. However, my usually volatile daughter controlled her emotions. Later, when it was her turn to snuggle, I told her how patient she had been while waiting and what a wonderful way to show kindness towards her sister by not lashing out in anger. I told her that I see God is working in her heart to help her love others the way He loves her.
Lesson 3: BE HONEST
Encouragement that is not based on truth doesn’t build your kids up because it is based on deception. It may make them feel good for the moment, but it will set them up for a much bigger disappointment down the road!
Example of Honest Encouragement: Remember my son that wants to play football? My husband and I have discussed the reality of his physical circumstances with him. We encouraged him to work extremely hard to get in shape so he is as fast as possible and build up his endurance. However, it would unkind to lie and tell him that, if he works “really hard,” he will be a great wide receiver when we don’t know that for sure. The reality is that the kid may sit the bench every game! However, we CAN be sure that developing a strong work ethic as he trains will be God-honoring and help him in anything he does in life so that is where we have focused our encouragement.
If we are not careful as parents to affirm and encourage truthfully, we will turn our child’s trust into feelings of betrayal. I am not saying we should discourage our kids’ dreams, but we should not give them false hope either. We must ENCOURAGE our kids to work hard, to the Glory of God, and see what comes of it.
Lesson 4: BE GOD-CENTERED
Finally, we must be careful when encouraging our children that we are not fueling their pride, regardless of whether we are focusing on their achievements or their character qualities. ALL good things come from God and that includes their spiritual gifts & talents. We can choose to tell our children that THEY are amazing OR we can choose to tell them how GOD MADE THEM amazing. The first pump up their ego, while the latter points out how we see God at work in their lives.
Our children will sometimes work hard and still fail to perform well. Sometimes they will be bad at something they wish they were good at. As parents, no amount of encouragement can guarantee they will experience worldly success. However, we can always encourage our kids to recognize what God is doing in them and through them.
Example of God-Centered Encouragement: One of the behaviors moms spend most of their time teaching small children is how to share. It is easy to praise your child when they do it well, but don’t stop at “Great job sharing your toys!” Take it one step further…”It pleases God when you are so selfless.”
Here are a few other opportunities for God-Centered Encouragement:
- admits to wrongdoing — commend honesty
- asks for help out of frustration — commend humility
- dresses up nicely — commend desire to take care of self
- follows instructions — commend obedience
- uses manners – commend respectfulness
- draws a picture/makes a craft – commend creativity
- cleans up a mess – commend stewardship
You just completed “Encouraging Your Kid 101.”
Effectively encouraging your kids doesn’t take DEEP insight so much as it takes SIGHT! See the good things that your kids are doing and take time to point them out. THEN, point them to Jesus with thanksgiving!! To be perfectly honest, this was awkward for me at first. But, it is getting easier the more I make a point of doing it. If you struggle with being overly critical, check out How to Turn a Critic Into an Encourager.