“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT)
All too often kids hear statements such as, “You’ll never amount to anything!” Many children are exposed to an onslaught of criticism, sarcasm, and derogatory comments. Those words tear down a child’s confidence, competence, and self-esteem. As a result, kids have growing problems of insecurity and fear. Unfortunately, they believe many of the negative messages they hear!
A 2001 study published by the American Psychological Association confirmed that involvement in a faith community significantly contributes toward a child’s positive self-image.1 Combining close family relationships and positive church experiences build healthy children. The study confirmed that those two influences dramatically boosted kids’ self-images and reduced emotional issues.
The word “encouragement” has a variety of related meanings: to urge forward, to persuade, to counsel, to give advice, to comfort, to exhort, or to be an advocate. Biblical encouragement helps children move forward in life. Reinforcing a child’s earnest efforts, good attitudes, and God-directed desires motivates him or her to successfully tackle increasingly difficult assignments!
Just as a car battery needs to be recharged regularly, every child requires a continuous supply of encouragement. To counterbalance negative messages, kids need large doses of support, affirmation, and praise. Look for ways to build your children up. Be their biggest cheerleader. Let your kids know that you believe in them—no matter what! This develops children who are confident in their Christian identity.
I learned to ski as an eager 6-year-old—ready to tear down the slopes of Lake Tahoe. At first, as I pointed my skies straight down the beginner course, my father’s strong hands were wrapped around mine. He encouraged me all the way down. Soon I learned how to turn, snow plow, and stay balanced. It was both exhilarating and terrifying; I loved it and dreaded it! Thankfully, my low center of gravity made it easy to recover from those frequent falls.
From the very beginning, my father’s words of praise inspired and encouraged me. Each time I picked myself back up, Dad pointed out how brave I was. He motivated me to try again, and again, and again. When I learned how to “make a pizza” with my skis, Dad commended my effort and new skill. When my skis tangled over his, Dad gave me kind pointers and encouraged me to try again. His praise was not overdone; it was kind and consistent.
My father’s calm, consistent demeanor made it safe to learn and try new things. I avoided the habit of berating myself for every mistake or stumble. Dad’s encouragement allowed me to celebrate what went right and kept me from crumbling when things went wrong.
This style of teaching and parenting enabled me to advance from beginner—to intermediate—to eventually develop into a confident skier. My Dad knew that specific feedback and encouragement would keep me going. Over the course of time, I blossomed!
What You Can Do
Negative messages stem from a variety of sources. Be on the alert to reduce or eliminate the number of times your child is exposed to hurtful words or inappropriate activities. Surround him or her with sources that provide positive input. The changes in your child’s outlook and performance might amaze you!
Try these creative and fun ideas to encourage your child:
- On birthday cards, encourage friends and family members to write a word of encouragement to your child. Read them together and retain them for future use.
- At the end of each day, take a few minutes to debrief with your child; point out highlights, attitudes, or right choices he or she made that day.
- Kids blossom uniquely. Pay close attention to how your child responds to different forms of encouragement: words of praise, heartfelt hugs, and celebrations of important achievements.
- Use methods that match his or her personality.
- Create a “Who I Am” poster that points out your child’s true identity in Christ. Select Bible words, phrases, and verses that reinforce God’s perspective on His beloved children. Add new words to your poster regularly.
- Look your child directly in the eyes; then lovingly tell him or her how you will always believe in, love, respect, and expect his or her very best!
1 www.apa.org, “Religious Involvement Found to Have Largest Influence on Self-Esteem of Young Adolescents”, August 24, 2001.