29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #30

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #29

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #28

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #27

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
27.  Teach your children to serve others.  One of the inherent dangers of all these affirming efforts is an unhealthy pride that can infiltrate your family.  How do we tell our children they are special without puffing them up?  How do we affirm our kids, but not spoil or coddle them?  How do we teach "everyone makes mistakes" while at the same time expecting them to improve and do their best in every endeavor?  Welcome to the balancing act called parenting. So much of our parenting wisdom goes into finding the balance between love and control, between fairness and generosity, between reward and punishment, between activity and margin, between giving an allowance and making our children to earn their money.  And finally, today's topic:  the balance between affirmation and an attitude…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #26

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
26.  Reward effort, not results.  Early in his navy career, former President Jimmy Carter applied for service in the U. S. Navy's nuclear submarine program.  Here is his account of his interview with Admiral Hyman Rickover, head of the program at the time: It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss.  Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time - current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery - and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty.  In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #25

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
25.  The importance of physical touch.  We know, both instinctively and through child development research, that babies who are held, hugged, and kissed are generally more emotionally healthy than those left for long periods of time without physical contact.  And long before a child understands anything about the meaning of love, they experience and feel love through our physical touch.  A hug, a kiss, a touch all communicate an affirming love to your child, a feeling that is only accentuated if physical touch is also their primary love language. But with or without the love language impact, the value of touch cannot be overstated.  As children get older the forms of touch change, but the basic message of love continues to be communicated through our touch.  That teenage boy who…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #24

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
24.  Laugh with your children.  "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Prov 17:22).  One of the ways to keep a joyful heart in your home is to look for joy in the journey, not just in reaching the destination.  Yes, there is satisfaction in reaching the destination, in achieving our goals.  But we also need to learn to be of good cheer along the way. Laughter really is good medicine.  Being able to laugh together is a great way to lift the mood at your house.  One of the important distinctions to making laughter an affirming action in your home is to recognize the balance between laughing at ourselves and our situations while not laughing at other's shortcomings or embarrassments. Our children…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #23

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
23.  Keep your promises.  A promise is a powerful thing.  I hate to break a promise.  I have and it hurts.  Why is breaking a promise so painful?  When you make a promise, you give away a part of yourself.  Something as simple as "I will be there at 3 o'clock to pick you up" gives a part of yourself to another person.  And something as serious as "I promise to love you for the rest of our lives" gives yourself completely to another person.  That is why divorce is so painful.  In marriage, you are giving yourself to another person.  In divorce, you have lost something you will never get back.  You have lost a part of yourself.  God's intention in marriage is to give yourselves away to each…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #22

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
22.  A healthy diet.  Let me join the bandwagon for healthy eating.  You know it is the right thing to do.  Rhonda and I were both raised on a midwestern diet of meat and potatoes with ample sides of sugar and butter.  Nothing nefarious on the part of our parents.  It just came naturally in a farming community in the 1960s.  A particular feature of our diet was a breakfast of donuts or cereal.  (I still can't believe that I put 2 tablespoons of sugar on my Cheerios as a kid.  Again, just a sign of the times.) By the time our own kids came along, books like Feed Me, I'm Yours! began to open doors to healthy eating for children.  Along the way, we made the correlation between large…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #21

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
21.  A healthy amount of sleep.  This was a specific issue at our house because both Rhonda and I are night people.  But our night owl approach was not a good fit for our kids.  We became more sensitive to sleep issues when we made the connection between lack of sleep and some of the negative attitudes in our home. Children often see bedtime as a rights issue, arguing to stay up longer as a function of their age.  Or parents sometimes use bedtime as a punishment platform sending ornery kids to bed early.  We tried to focus on bedtime as a health issue.  We stressed that we all feel better physically and emotionally when we get enough sleep. I also caution parents in regard to the health side of…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #20

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
20.  Follow a family schedule that reduces fatigue and time pressure.  On the printed page, margin is the space between the print and the edge of the paper.  In life, margin is the space between our activity level and our limits.  When our activities and responsibilities exceed our time, energy, and financial limits, life suffers.  In particular, the relational life that God intended suffers the most. A constant diet of busyness and entertainment limits the development of self-confidence and imagination in our kids.  It also squeezes out the margin we need to help our children interpret life.  When they hear something confusing from a teacher, a friend, or whomever, we need to have the time on hand to help them process these thoughts and make sense of what they are…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #19

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
19.  Encourage friendships of high character.  "He who walks with wise men will be wise.  But the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Prov 13:20).  One of our continuing prayers for our children is that they would find and connect with quality friends.  We were created for community and friendships are community in action. We stressed several ideas in teaching our children about making friends.  We first explained that they already had a network of close relationships in their siblings.  Getting along with their brothers and sisters became a defining criteria if they were going to be allowed to invite new friends over.  Developing affirming relationships within your family teaches what true friendship is - loyalty in good times and bad. We also emphasized the importance of reaching out to be a friend, rather than…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #18

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
18.  Teach your children to communicate with adults.  One of the best ways you can prepare your kids for a confident adult life is to teach them to communicate with grown-ups.  This ability is not valued and is desperately lacking in their peer-influenced world.  Somehow conversing with adults is not cool and we have come to expect rudeness as typical adolescent behavior.  It doesn't have to be this way. Here is an illustration we used to help our children in this area.  One evening I went to the garage and came back with a tennis ball.  With the kids gathered around, I asked for a partner to play a game of "catch" with me.  I let the volunteer go first and she threw me the tennis ball.  I then held on…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #17

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
Well here we are, over half way there on our journey to 29 ways to affirm your children.  For you OCD types, I apologize for using the prime number of 29 in every title.  Maybe I will come up with a number 30 before we are through (but then I would have to go back and edit every title).  Did I mention the number 29? One thing I would like to stress is that these ideas are not a new to-do list to add to your busy schedule.  Depending on your stage of life, we are all at varying points of busyness ranging from having some margin in our lives to very little margin to haven't seen margin in a coon's age.  The point of these posts is to work this…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #16

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
16.  Teach children to complete their chores.  As a follow-up to teaching children to work, we want to emphasize teaching them to finish the job.  This became an important issue at our house because Rhonda and I recognized how our own personalities sometimes interfered with that effort.  Rhonda is an artist and an idea machine.  As such, she easily moves to the next big idea before the previous endeavor is complete.  It is not a laziness issue, but just the opposite.  It is driven by a love to tackle the next big thing. As for me, I have an uncanny knack for completing jobs to the 80% level.  I mow the yard, but don't quite get to the edging.  I do the hand dishes, but always leave a dish or…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #15

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
15.  Teach your children to work.  Another way we spur our children forward on the path of becoming productive and independent adults is to teach them how to work.  The irony is that despite its value, most kids are not too interested in developing this skill.  The best way to get them started is to work alongside your children.  We tried, in our family, to make working together as natural as playing together.  Our kids helping us clean the garage or raking the leaves became just as much a part of family life as playing children's games or building Lego cities with our children.  Your influence in the "work alongside Daddy" increases when you, the adult, "play alongside" as well.  Having your kids work alongside you teaches them the necessary…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #14

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
14.  Encourage positive character qualities.  While we may be challenged to compete or excel in the beauty, brains, and brawn pageant, we all have the ability to be honest, courteous, cheerful, loyal, enthusiastic, faithful, and much more.  The ability to develop these qualities is totally separate from what anyone thinks of us.  And the affirmation aspect of this goal is the great value these qualities will be to your children in the workplace, their future marriage, the mission God calls them to, etc. When I visit with high school students on the topic of dating, I like to ask what makes a girl or boy popular with the "in" crowd.  Good looks and a confident personality usually top the list.  When I ask a group of guys if they sit…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #13

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#13  Teach self-control.  One of the fruits of healthy discipline is self-control.  Children are generally motivated by a desire to have their needs and wants met right away.  They want their desires attended to pronto.  Self-control, on the other hand, brings some patience and thoughtfulness into the equation. There are three aspects of self-control we want to teach our children.  First, we want to teach the concept of delayed gratification.  Not everything has to happen right now.  Sometimes the desired activity or reward needs to wait.  One way we taught this concept to our kids was in how we let them spend their money.  We encouraged and guided them in how to save their spending money for something they really wanted but required more than their cash on hand; rather than running…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #12

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#12  Discipline in an emotionally healthy manner.  Children do not feel good about themselves when they "get away with things."  At the same time, discipline that is arbitrary or angry is unhealthy and frustrates our children.  We encourage our kids when our discipline instructs and teaches rather than serves as an avenue to "get even" with our disobedient child. In the early years, children are motivated by discovery and feeling, not by reason.  As they develop their understanding of right and wrong, we need to make the rules abundantly clear as well as the consequences or punishment if the rules are broken.  One of the areas we need clarity is recognizing the distinction between childish irresponsibility and willful defiance. Things like leaving their baseball glove out in the rain or spilling…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #11

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #10

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #9

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #8

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#8  Develop your child's gift.  As a follow-up to discovering your child's gift, the next goal in the affirmation process is to help them develop their interests, talents, and skills.  If your child has the gift of service, find a place for them to serve.  If your child is the mechanical type, find something for them to build.  If your child likes to read, find material that teaches and challenges. For our family, some of these situations looked like this.  Our oldest son, Josh, had an early interest in computers.  He took a class in junior high where he built a 386 computer from scratch.  (Thank you Mr. White).  He soon had a business designing websites while still in high school.  This interest led to a four-year degree in graphic design…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #7

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#7  Discover the gift in your child.  One of the most affirming things we can do for our children is to help them discover their gifts.  Again, as with almost every one of these suggestions, we would all nod in agreement that this is a good idea.  But will we also agree to take the time and effort to make it happen? Discovering your child's gifts takes the time and desire to know and study your child.  This may take getting "outside" our own personality.  We often view our children and our expectations for them through the grid of our own gifts, talents, and bent.  In short, through the lens of how our personality sees the world.  Discovery may take some flexibility on our part. For example, if the number one…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #6

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#6  Minimize sibling rivalry.  One of the values in our home when the kids were young was to go beyond just teaching our children to "get along".  We wanted to stretch them to the next level of actually enjoying and being an encouragement to each other.  We did this through a variety of approaches; all designed to take the offensive in minimizing sibling rivalry. First, we emphasized generosity over fairness in our home.  We wore out the Quigley Village VCR tape of the parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different times of the day and then paid them each the same amount.  The parable ends with the landowner saying, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?  Or is your…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #5

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#5  Nip the self-criticism.  Words have power, even our own words to ourselves.  And it is important to teach our children not to talk poorly about themselves.  But wait a minute.  Don't we also want to instill a little humility into our kids?  We don't want them thinking too highly of themselves, do we?  Welcome to the balancing act called parenting. Yes, we want to teach humility to our children.  And this is where - by knowing your child - you know which extreme they tend toward.  But remember, humility is not a talented person thinking themselves unskilled, or a smart person thinking themselves foolish, or any other way we depreciate what God has given us.  It is a false humility to deny God's good gifts to us.  True humility is not…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #4

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#4  Give everyone an opportunity to speak.  It is natural for the conversation at your house to be dominated by the talkative types.  Depending on the age range and personality of your children, it may take a purposeful effort on your part to get everyone in on the discussion.  Children need to know that their thoughts are a contribution and be encouraged to join in. One of the ways we drew our children into the dialogue at our house was to ask specific questions around the dinner table.  One of our favorites was, "What was the high point of your day?"  Or, "What was the low point of your day?"  These conversation starters were a direct window into the hearts of our children.  We often took time at dinner for all…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #3

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #2

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
#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…
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29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #1

29 Ways to Affirm Your Children, Thoughts
"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…
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