29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #3

#3  Give your children choices.  Children are empowered by the opportunity to choose.  Children are affirmed by the choices we give them.  And the power to choose often eliminates those showdowns over what really start as insignificant issues.  For example, Junior says he does not want to get dressed in the morning.  After some prodding from Mom, Junior digs in his heels and the ensuing meltdown has us chasing Junior around the house in his diaper.  Why is he laughing when I am about to boil over?  Or what about the other end of the day when Junior announces he does not want to take his bath and you find yourself trying to pry a three-year-old’s fingers off of the bathroom door jamb?

We have found that these encounters can be minimized by giving kids choices.  We ask Junior before announcing it is time to get dressed, “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt today?”  Before getting into the tub, we suggest, “What bath time toy do you want to bring with you into the tub?”  Distracted by the power to choose, they move forward to the task at hand.

And these choices are not just for little kids.  We found increased cooperation in the kitchen when we assigned one night a week for one of the kids to help Mom prepare dinner with the understanding that they could choose the meal.  Or we took turns letting our kids decide what game we were going to play for our family evening together.  Cooperation increases when children experience the power to choose.

Now on the surface, some parents may object to this approach as a diversion tactic instead of tackling obedience / disobedience issues straight on.  Not to worry.  There are plenty of opportunities, if we are paying attention, to discipline and teach over willful disobedience throughout their growing up and we need to stand strong when necessary.  But we have found the peace, security, and joy level go up when we don’t take every issue to the level of a confrontation.  Diversion at the appropriate time is not a cop-out.  It is finding the balance between love and control in our homes.  Remember, we (the adults) have the wisdom and observation from our mature point of reference on our side.

Think about the power to choose in our adult world.  Many of us have worked for companies whose attitude was, “You should feel lucky to have a job here.  The economy is not doing too well.  We can treat you poorly because you really have no other choice of where to work.”  Contrast that with, “We know you are a top-notch accountant.  There are twenty companies you could be working for.  We want to have you here.  We know you have choices and we want this to the company of choice for quality people like you.”  Which company will have the most enthusiastic employees?

It is the same way with children.  They are affirmed by having choices.  This does not mean we coddle our kids, cater to our kids, or spoil our kids.  By nature of having little ones in the house, your home is child-focused.  Or at least it needs to be.  But it is not child-centered.  There is a difference.  And giving children appropriate choices in one of the ways we affirm and empower our kids.

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #2

#2  Be sensitive to your child’s thoughts and feelings.  How many times have you tried to enter a conversation and were abruptly ignored or passed over as if you weren’t even there?  How did it make you feel?  Hurt or insignificant with nothing to contribute?  A steady diet of this would clearly influence our opinion of ourselves.

It is the same way with kids.  And in a busy household of overbooked schedules and homework and meals to prepare, it takes an intentional effort to take the time required to treat your child’s thoughts and feelings with respect.  Remember, the long term goal is to build a relationship.

Our children feel validated as a person when their thoughts and opinions are heard by the ones they desire to please the most; their parents.  A child’s view of himself, especially in the early years, is largely dependent on how he thinks you, his parents, really feel about him.  No matter how many words of affirmation we say – and we should say them often – our sensitive response to our kids will be the loudest voice speaking to their hearts.

One of the easiest things to say to a child when they express fear, sadness, or disappointment is, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  We think we are teaching them to be tough or to grow up, but this dismissive response from us is really saying, “I don’t want to hear about your feelings.”  A child cannot help how they feel.  The feelings just come natural to them.  They can’t control how they feel.  The only thing they can control is how they respond to their feelings.  And when we listen graciously to their thoughts and feelings, we open the door to the teaching moments of instructing them how to respond to those feelings in ways that are God-pleasing.

A lot of frustration in our children’s lives can be avoided if we take time to listen.  When we see the illogic in their little minds, there is such a strong temptation in our adult minds to immediately correct their thoughts and feelings.  And while over time we need to teach and correct, we need to balance that responsibility with a sensitivity to what is going on in their child mind and heart.  When we find that balance, the reward at the end of the day will be “rare and beautiful treasures.”

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #1

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Prov 24:3-4).  The wisdom part of building a spiritually healthy home is learning from and teaching God’s Word to our children.  It is developing a faith focus in our family through reading the Bible together and serving Christ together.  It is teaching and demonstrating to our kids biblical principles such as “love supersedes knowledge” and a hundred other counter-cultural ideas found in Scripture.

The understanding component of building our homes comes from paying attention; knowing our children.  It is observing, thinking, being alert to danger, discovering your child’s personality, gifts, and inclinations.  Putting the wisdom and understanding together leads to knowledge that brings the reward of “rare and beautiful treasures.”  These treasures are not measured by financial or academic success, or any worldly benchmark.  These riches are not based on IQ, money, or physical strength or beauty.  These treasures are loving relationships and spiritual growth in our families as we grow up in the Lord together.

And the understanding piece of the parenting challenge thrives best in the soil of an affirming environment in your home.  So let’s take off on our advertised topic of 29 ways to affirm your children.

#1  Create a positive, loving, and secure environment in your home.  This may seem as obvious, generic, and general as Mom, baseball, and apple pie, but there is a specific intentionality to this goal.  It starts with the two important messages we need to convey to our children.  The first is the simple message, “I love you.”  Simple to say; a challenge it put into action.  Your message to your kids needs to be:  “I love you.  I love you more than you will ever know.  You can never lose my love.  You can’t do anything to make me withhold my love.  I would chose you above all others.  I love you.”

Why is this message so critical?  When your children are assured of your love, they have the confidence to give themselves away in service to others.  Think about your own love experience.  My assurance of God’s love and acceptance frees me from being a prisoner to others thoughts and opinions about me.  It frees me to give myself away in loving relationships.  It allows me to unwrap and practice my spiritual gift without being timid.  One of the many ministries of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to assure me of God’s love.  “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).  When our children are assured of our love and assured of God’s love, they have a confidence to serve others without looking for love in all the wrong places.

The second message, wrapped in the first, that we need to convey is, “I am in charge.”  Your message:  “I am in charge.  I demonstrate my love by taking charge.  God has put me in charge.  I am in charge because I am the mature one.  I see the big picture, and I am learning from and leaning on the God who sees the eternal picture.”  Children generally focus on the needs and wants of the moment.  They want their desires met now.  They need to know, beyond any doubt, that Mom and Dad are in charge.

Putting it all together, we have two messages we need to convey to our kids:  I love you and I am in charge.  These messages provide the balance between love and control in your home.  And when these messages are lived out, you provide a positive (the power of affirmation), loving (I love you), and secure (I am in charge for your good) environment for relationships to grow.