6 encouragements to give your kids, no matter how old they are
6 encouragements to give your kids, no matter how old they are
I’m not the world’s most naturally encouraging person, but I want to be. So I’ve tried to acquire encouraging statements that I read or hear other people use, and I speak them to my own kids. I believe them, of course, or I wouldn’t say them. Words have power, and I want the power of my words to uplift, comfort, and calm my kids. I want my words to translate the love I feel for them. I’ll bet you want the same thing for your kids..
Here are 6 encouraging statements to say to your kids, whether they are toddlers, teens, or adults.
- “You’ll figure this out.” This trumps “I’ll help you” or “I’ll take care of it.” While these statements alleviate a child’s present panic, they subversively tell the child that he is incapable of handling a crisis on his own. It keeps him attached to a parent; in time, the child and the parent will resent each other for their inter-dependence. They will struggle over control and freedom from one another, and the parent will certainly struggle over the need to be needed. A good follow-up to “You’ll figure this out” is “How can I help you?” This second question is left to the wisdom of the parent and the age and personality of the child; some children should not be helped, and some should. You’ll figure it out.
- “God says you’re fearfully and wonderfully made.” God created you on purpose, for a purpose. (Psalm 139:14-16). When children become desolate or discouraged about what they can’t do or who won’t be their friends or what they look like, a parent’s natural response is to deny the negative and praise the positive. You might want to say things like, “They didn’t mean that! You’re the most beautiful girl in school!” or “You are a way better play than he is; you deserve the starting spot.” These types of statements create blame, confusion, and a sense of entitlement. Before long, the child will ask, If I’m so talented, why am I constantly overlooked? If I’m so desirable, why don’t I have friends? In an attempt to create security and attachment to the family, you can unwittingly add more unhappiness and unworthiness to your children’s psyche if you flatter instead of encourage. Instead, point your children toward God, who designed them perfectly (with all their so-called flaws) because He has created special tasks only they can do. If you focus on what the world thinks or values, you’ll teach kids to be idolatrous for the world’s affirmation. Encourage them to trust and worship their Creator.
- “I noticed that you _____________.” The key to this encouragement is what goes in the blank. A Christian parent’s job is to train good behavior that comes from the heart. Make time to notice kindness, neatness, responsibility, and hard work, which can easily hide behind something more jazzy. Affirm your kids’ desire to be good, even when they fail at it. Reminding them they always have a choice in how to think and behave makes them responsible for their thoughts and behavior; giving grace for mistakes teaches them that good behavior is a process, not a destination (in Christian lingo, we call that “discipleship”). Children who believe they are innately good boys and girls won’t believe they need a spiritual transformation. However, encouraging a child for who he or she is trying to be will remind them that God created them for holiness. (Be careful not to praise your kids strictly for good behavior; that reinforces their need to please you. Conversely, not noticing bad behavior and correcting it tells children that it doesn’t matter what they do, only what gets them noticed.)
- “God is preparing you for something great.” When hardship happens repetitively, discouragement will probably follow. For the boy who works hard and still gets Cs or the girl who is kind to everyone and still sits alone at lunch, the universe is a cruel place. We might pray and pray, but if the trials don’t lift, it’s easy to decide that God must not care about our family as much as other people (who appear to get everything they want). Try viewing hardship as spiritual boot camp. As our boys struggled to make teams, struggled to win favor with teachers or teammates, or just plain struggled . . . we told them that God must be preparing them for something truly incredible—something that requires the discipline and strength of character that they’d never learn at the top of the heap. We encouraged tenacity, resilience, and perseverance. We asked them to take the long look, to trust God’s promises (Jer. 29:11). Now that two of my sons are adults, I can attest that this belief is true. God is doing a great work in them and through them. Are they famous? No. Rich? No. Perfect? No, but that’s not what we were trying to accomplish. We tried to prepare them to be used by God for whatever He called them to. And they are moving in that direction. That’s all a parent is supposed to do.
- “I’m proud of you.” We’ve all burst with pride while watching our kids perform and compete at games, recitals, spelling bees, productions, and school. Please note that praise and encouragement are different responses to activity. Praise celebrates what someone has accomplished. Encouragement inspires character, usually in the midst of struggle. When I notice my children being loving, sacrificial, and diligent, I tell them how proud I am and how much their character brings glory to God. This is a long stretch from being proud of them scoring the winning point. Celebration of talent puts the glory squarely on them and their achievements. Of course, you should praise your children for excelling, but just be careful that’s not the only time you’re affirming. You can say, “I’m proud of who you are and who you’re becoming. I’m grateful that you’re mine. I am never disappointed in you.”
- “I love you (no matter what you do).” Our children will believe this to the extent that we live it out. Yes, we are imperfect parents, and it’s okay for our kids to know that. I believe that the bigger their mistakes, the more opportunity we have to show them how much we love them. Unconditional love is the reason wayward teenagers return home. (Luke 15:11-31) I remember when one of our boys had just begun driving alone, he had two fender-benders in the same week. Both times, his voice shook on the other end of the phone; each time, when I arrived at the scene, he was sitting behind the wheel with his head in his hands. When he looked at me, he just started sobbing. He thought he was going to get in big trouble, because I had warned him many times about being alert and slowing down. At both accidents, I had to peel him from the car seat and envelope him in an embrace, just holding him and telling him it was okay. I told him that everyone makes mistakes; it didn’t make him a terrible person or a terrible driver. He would get better. Our treatment of him after those events accomplished far more than grounding him or lecturing him ever would have.
Thus is the power of encouragement. It dissipates shame and fear. It inspires greatness. Use these 6 encouraging statements or develop 6 of your own. You will know when you’ve found the ones that reach your children’s hearts: they will warm up instantly. You will watch the stress slip away and the tenderness return. You will see the joy and relief on their faces. They will feel loved.
Then make it a habit.