29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #11

#11  Develop self-confidence.  Teach your children that other’s opinions of you do not determine who you are.  I made a career out of embarrassing my kids at the Olive Garden restaurant to make a point about self-confidence.  When the waiter did not return with the pepper grinder as promised to top our salads (an ongoing problem it seems), I would roll over in those great chairs they had with the casters to the nearest pepper grinder and roll back with the goods.  My point was, “Don’t worry what people are thinking of you if you are doing something that needs to be done.” (Of course, as Rhonda points out, I enhanced the embarrassment with my showmanship.)

The kind of self-confidence we wish to instill is not some boastful or arrogant attitude.  It is instead a firm determination to follow the agenda, both big and small, that God has placed in front of us no matter what others may think.  Jesus gave an example of this in John 7:1-6.  After the feeding of the five thousand on a hillside in Galilee, Jesus’ brothers said, “Hey, Jesus, you should go up to the feast in Jerusalem and do your thing.  Anyone who wants to be well known needs to be doing these miracles on the big stage.”  Jesus replied, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune” (vs 6).

In our lives, we have people and institutions that would be happy to set the agenda for our family.  And while we want to learn and practice biblical principles in a community setting, we are the ones responsible for following the path God has laid out for us and our family.  As you set the identity for your family, following God’s direction, you instill a sense of self-confidence in your children that says, “This is what the ____________ (fill in your family name) do.  This is who we are.”

Does this kind of self-confidence befit a Christ-follower?  I believe it does and when we do this, we emulate a trait in Jesus that even his enemies recognized.  “You teach the truth without catering to man’s opinion” (Matt 22:16).  Teach your children the balance between living and cooperating in a community but at the same time having the self-confidence to move forward in life “without catering to man’s opinion.”

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #10

#10  Help your child compete.  Even though we recognize the injustice of the beauty, brains, and brawn value system, it is the world our children are growing up in.  As parents, I believe we have a responsibility to help our children compete.  What do I mean by compete?

If your child’s crooked teeth are a beauty distraction, get them braces.  If your child struggles academically, search out some tutoring options.  If your child suffers with a severe acne problem, seek medical help.  If you son wants to increase his strength, buy him some weights.  In short, take action to help your child compete.

Now, two reasonable objections to this approach must be addressed.  The first objection is, “By teaching our children to compete are we actually training them to value the world’s system?” and secondly, “All these suggestions cost money and we cannot afford braces, tutoring, etc.”  Let me take the second objection first.

What about the money?  I realize we all have different financial limitations and I want to be careful not to come across too crass.  My encouragement would be to think outside the box as far as you can.  For example, do you have some 401K savings money you could use for a serious family need?  This goes against traditional financial advice to never touch this kind of money, and we should never be flippant or casual about using retirement funds early.  But I am trying to stretch your thinking about the idea that “save, save, save” for retirement has been drilled into our heads when pressing family needs may require “spend”.  There is only a short time to meet the needs of your family and then they are grown.  Again, not a decision to be made lightly, but worth some thought.

Back now to the first objection about the message we convey to our kids when we help them compete.  When one of our children had a severe case of acne, we did not think it appropriate to just say outward beauty is not important so you have to carry this burden knowing the self-conscious feelings of inferiority it caused.  Some physical challenges we do have to teach our children to just accept if they can’t be changed.  But it is an affirming parent who helps relieve these self-conscious fears whenever possible.  I don’t believe this is glamorizing beauty; I believe it is encouraging our children.

We walk a fine line between wanting our children to look their best while saying outward beauty is not all-important.  We want our kids to do well in school while saying academic achievement is not our #1 goal.  How we accomplish this is a question of balance.  Even as we help our children compete, we recognize these efforts are secondary to instructing them in the things that matter most; love, kindness, integrity, loyalty, honesty, and devotion to God.

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #9

#9  Teach your child to compensate.  As children grow up, their view of themselves is the product of two important influences.  First, the quality of life at home.  Second, their social experiences outside of the family setting.  Influence number one is something we can generally control ourselves, but what strategies can we implement for influence number two?

The world judges us by three primary standards; beauty, brains, and brawn.  That the world judges by outward beauty needs no explanation.  It is woven into the fabric of our culture.  As for brains, despite being sometimes ridiculed as nerds or geeks, intellectual acumen is a highly-valued talent.  And every bully knows the value of physical strength.  We also value strength of personality and are attracted to the magnetic types who command attention wherever they go.

As children grow up and move more and more into social interactions outside the home, they soon learn where they stand in the beauty, brains, and brawn pecking order.  We want to attack the feelings of inferiority that rise out of this pecking order on two fronts.  First, we need to teach our kids from a biblical perspective the value of the attributes that God deems important.  Second, we need to teach our children to compensate.

What do I mean by compensate?  Simply put, we are not going to be unduly influenced by the world’s standards of value and we will compensate for how our kids are judged in the beauty, brains, and brawn department by helping them develop unique skills that they can excel in.

Let me give you an example.  Your child is a kinesthetic learner.  She struggles with academic achievement.  However, she excels in figure skating.  She puts all her kinesthetic ability into a graceful routine that has her literally floating across the ice.  Encouraging and developing that skill helps her compensate for the challenges she faces in other areas.

Ellen Ripstein won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2001.  When her boyfriend later dissed her interest in crossword puzzles as nerdy, her comeback was golden, “Well, what are you the best in the country at?”  This line really stuck with me.  I or my kids or you or your kids may never be “the best in the country” at anything.  But there is something we are very good at.  And encouraging your child to develop what they are very good at is a great affirmation weapon against inferiority and low self-worth.