29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #30

Surprise!  We came up with number thirty so that all you even number types could finish the series with a sense of closure.  Enjoy and thanks for joining us.

30.  Build family unity.  I am not so sure if this is another affirmation suggestion or actually more the result of practicing the previous twenty-nine.  Here are some practical steps to build family unity.  Pray together.  Practice good communication.  Teach your kids to share.  Stay involved.  Say “yes” as often as you can.  Have a plan.  (We are more likely to say “no” out of convenience when we don’t have a plan.)  Have everyone contribute to mundane jobs.   Affirm, affirm, affirm.   Agree on a schedule that reduces fatigue and time pressure.  Nip sibling rivalry.  Ask the older kids to sacrifice for the younger ones.  Assign your older kids the role of pacesetter, setting the example of behavior for their younger siblings.  Read the Bible together.  Eat your meals together – great conversation opportunities.  Share the experience of carrying out life’s duties together.  Teach your children how to compensate and compete.  Celebrate life.

As I have said before, these affirmation ideas are not just another “to-do” list to add to your already overworked schedule.  They are a way of doing life together.  They are a way of relating to each other in your home.  They are not an added burden, but a natural flow of intentional choices to relate to each other in affirming ways.

As the movie Toy Story 2 opens, Rex the toy dinosaur is once again defeated by the evil Zurg in a video game (due to the fact that his arms are too short to jump and fire at the same time).  However, Rex eventually gets his revenge when, later in the movie, he accidentally knocks Zurg and his ion blaster down an elevator shaft with his tail, saving Buzz from certain ruin.  Rex proudly proclaims, “I did it!  I finally defeated Zurg!”  Later, back at Andy’s house, Hamm requests Rex’s assistance with the video game.  Rex, fresh off his defeat of Zurg, responds, “I don’t need to play the game, I LIVED IT!”

May that be your family’s exclamation as well.  These ideas were not just good theory.  These ideas were not put on the shelf waiting for the kids to get older.  These ideas were not lost to laziness or procrastination or busyness.  One of your greatest antidotes to being left with a house full of regret when your children move on is to take action now.  Then your whole family can look back together and say, “WE LIVED IT!”

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #29

29.  Develop a healthy pride in being part of something bigger than themselves.                      A group of tourists went to visit a marble quarry in western Vermont.  As their tour progressed around the quarry, one of the visitors called out to a jack hammer-wielding worker below, “What are you doing down there?”  The worker snarled back, “I’m cutting this stupid rock into a square!”  Seeing another worker who appeared to be doing the same thing, the visitor called out to him, “What are you doing?”  The second worker, obviously happy in his work, called back, “I’m on a team building a cathedral!”

When we view family life through the eyes of the first worker, we are just a group of people living under the same roof.  Your contribution to the effort may go unnoticed in the busyness of day to day activities.  Conversely, you may not acknowledge the contribution of others to the family’s well-being.  In short, we are just cutting rocks into squares.

But when we embrace family life through the eyes of the second worker, our family becomes a team that is building a cathedral.  Each one in the family has a contribution to make.  Our job as Mom and Dad is to require a contribution, recognize the contribution, and celebrate the contribution.  Part of developing an affirming family is getting your kids on your team.  If we require them to join the team with all responsibility and no celebration, family life becomes defined by rules; cold and rigid.  When we celebrate and reward without responsibility, we fail our kids.  We haven’t taught them the value of self-discipline, loyalty, and service.

Building a family team requires balance.  A balance of responsibility and celebration.  A balance of love and control.  A balance of truth and grace.  And as we live into that balance, we prepare our children to join an even bigger team than just our family.  We prepare them to join God’s team, to explore God’s work in this world, and to discover the mission He has for them.  And they become part of something bigger than themselves; the greatest mission in the world.

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #28

28.  Celebrate life.  When we celebrate life, our Christian experience becomes characterized by joy, not by the disappointments this earthly life has to offer.  Financial stress, physical setbacks, fickle friends, difficult schoolwork, etc. bring plenty of challenges to adults and children alike.  In short, left to itself, this world is not an affirming place.  We need to be the affirmers.  Our children may reject that affirmation.  But, in general, people run to where they are affirmed.

One of the keys to raising the joy factor in our homes is to celebrate the small victories.  This is particularly true in the area of training our children.  Our joy as a family is centered on the relationships God has given us with our children, not only on the outcomes and results.  If we wait to celebrate until our kids are perfect, we will miss so much.  (And we will never get to the celebration!)  If we wait to celebrate until the final goal is accomplished, we will miss the small victories along the way.  Celebrate early and often the steps to maturity you see in your children.

We made a commitment early in our home life to not let “little victories go by with no applause” – to borrow a phrase from Wayne Watson’s Watercolor Ponies.  We made a commitment in our marriage, in our ministry, in our friendships, and in our family life to find joy in the journey, celebration in the pathway.  When all our focus is on the finish line, we spend a lot of time waiting, worrying, longing for change to come.  When our focus is on the journey, we not only find joy along the way, but we are also tuned into how to make the path straighter and harness the lessons learned along the way.

One evening, several years ago, we announced to our children that Mom and Dad had come up with a motto for the summer.  “Every day a holiday, every meal a banquet, and every night a party!”  The kids looked at each other in shock and so as not to miss this golden opportunity, they quickly asked, “Are you sure?”  I said it sounded great to me with school out for the summer and as long as we got our chores done, I think it would be fun.  There is always a way to add intrigue to daily life.

So what did we do that summer?  We probably added some unusual touches to our meals; an appetizer or a special dessert.  Rhonda and the kids did more spontaneous activities during the day.  We might have bought a season family pass to Astroworld.  We probably went to TCBY for a treat a few more evenings than usual.  And a party is pretty easy to create as long as any size party will do.  In short, we did some special things that summer, but nothing outlandish and we didn’t let the expectations go beyond reasonable.  I will say the general attitude around the house made it seem like a three month long celebration and the “hype” left a mark of joy that we still talk about today.