Encourage Your Children
I believe that encouragement is the rich soil in which we grow our children to their full potential. I was blessed to grow up with encouragement. We raised our own children on encouragement. It was their daily bread, as much as their food. Encouraging our children, and everyone around us, should be the habit of our lives. Don’t be a little encourager. Be a great encourager. Be a habitual encourager. I trust that the following ideas will inspire you in this important ministry to your family.
Night Time Talk
Each night, we pray and talk with each of our children. I didn't realize how important this time was for my children until one night I was tucking the little ones in their beds. My oldest daughter was waiting for me and I noticed she had something on her heart. After we prayed together, I asked her is she had something to share with me. She told me what was heavy on her heart and we talked together. As I was leaving her room she said, "I am so glad we talked, Mommy.”
I find it is important to the children that I talk with each child. The day seems even longer because of this, but it is well worth it. Their tender little hearts need the encouragement of their Mother and the affirmation of their Daddy. Although I praise them during the day, the night is usually the time when I praise their accomplishments of the day and tell them how much I praise God for giving them to us.
Encouragement is a building block that is necessary for later. The American Heritage Dictionary defines encouragement, "to inspire to continue on a chosen course; impart courage or confidence." We want to inspire our children to continue the chosen course of following the Lord with a loyal heart and a willing mind.
Sequim, Washington, USA
A Little Song
Whenever my children need to be uplifted, or after they've been disciplined and are ready for comfort, I always sing them this little song to the tune of "I had a little sister, her name was Susie Q, I put her in the bathtub to see what she would do…”
"I love you, love you, love you, no matter what!
Always, always, always, I love you!
I love you, love you, love you, no matter what!
Nothing you can say or do stops me from loving you, you, you!"
I want to remind them of my unconditional love for them so that they can readily grasp the idea of God's unconditional love for them too!
Praise the Positives
I discovered, long before I had my own children, that a child will try to get your attention any way possible, either by acting in a positive or negative way. My husband and I decided before our first child was born that we would ALWAYS encourage the positive behavior. It has worked miraculously.
I praise the way they get their chores done in the mornings. I praise the way they manage their time efficiently in the busy morning time when we are all getting ready for the day. I say things to my teenager daughter such as, "I like the necklace you chose to wear today. It's as pretty as you are!" Or "I like the books you have chosen at the library today. I am proud you are such a great reader!"
When my son was tiny, my mother in law asked me why I tell him, "Son, I love the way you are coloring that picture so nicely. What beautiful colors!" Or, "Son, you are doing such a great job of helping me with the grocery shopping today. Thank you!" She could not understand this and thought I was "coddling" my children or stroking their egos. To the contrary! My children feel great when they know the good things they are doing are being noticed and appreciated!
Find the positives! Uplift your children with the good they are doing even if it is just, "Thank you for brushing your teeth this morning." As soon as you find things they are doing right, they will do MORE things right and feel GREAT about pleasing you!
I get a lot more POSITIVE behavior when I comment on the positives!
Spokane, Washington, USA
Ice Cream Party
When my children do well in school at home, I encourage them by drawing an ice-cream Sunday, part by part (one part for each day they do well). When the whole ice-cream Sunday is finished, we have a big family ice-cream party. They find this very encouraging.
Missionaries in San-Pedro, Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa. When back in USA they live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“Pass it Back” Journal
I read about a “Pass it Back” journal which I now use in my home. I selected a pretty, spiral-bound journal and wrote a note to my eight-year-old daughter explaining that the book was a place for us to write personal notes to each other. I began by telling her how beautiful she is--on the outside, but more importantly, on the inside.
I shared some of my prayers for her, and described some of the ways I have seen God growing her character. I invited her to write to me about anything she wanted.
She loved the idea, and in one of her first entries she asked if just the two of us could do something special together--like go to the mall. I have a strong distaste for malls for a number of philosophical reasons (not the least of which is the pervasive materialism) and I was able to use the journal to explain my point of view, and encourage her to think about a "bigger picture" than she had previously considered.
She "passed back" an alternative--a trip to the zoo (to which she had recently won a family pass). She itemized the economic factors involved (it would be free because of the pass, we could use coupons for lunch and described all the wonderful things we could see and do together, just the two of us.)
To the zoo we went. What a wonderful day it was! We leisurely visited her favourite animals and even trekked to the Canadian exhibit (which involved descending and then ascending a steep hill on foot) that we'd never visited before because of the encumbrance of strollers and wagons for younger siblings.
We both found ourselves repeatedly commenting on how happy we were to be alone together for a whole day. Afterwards, because Dad had taken the other children out for the afternoon and evening, we went to her favourite restaurant for supper and then lounged on the couch reading together.
We had such a delightful day together. We didn't have any deep conversations or surprising revelations about each other. We just enjoyed each other's company and we each recorded our joy in our "Pass it Back” journal.
The journal is an encouragement that keeps on giving, because it will again be an encouragement to both of us when we read it years down the road and relive our memories of this stage in our lives.
Stouffville, Ontario, Canada
One of the ways I encourage my children is by giving them little phrases to say. I call it “speaking the truth” to themselves. I repeat the same phrase every time they are in a particular situation it fits with, and before long, they start saying it to themselves. The phrases act as a scaffolding to support them and help them to develop character and self-control.
If a task seems too hard, they often say, "I can't do it!" If it is something I know they can do with a little effort, I do not do it for them. Instead I encourage them, "You can do it! Speak the truth to yourself." They try again, saying to themselves, "I can do it", which quickly turns into an excited cry of, "I did it!" They then have the satisfaction of a job well done and are motivated to try harder next time.
Another phrase I have used is, "It's not so bad." Sometimes they anticipate going through something with fear such as a hair cut, being rinsed off after a bath, doing an overwhelming chore, then they find out that it wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be. I try to reinforce that thought so they will remember it the next time they are tempted to panic.
Other times they will say, "I need to be patient," and they start singing the "Have Patience" song we've taught them. Or it will be, "I'm going to trust God," and they will sing, "When I am afraid, I will trust in You…”
They hold on to the little phrases they've learned from Scripture, songs and stories, and they use the truths to help them choose the right. Their wills are being trained by this "truth speaking”. It is encouraging to hear them instruct themselves in what to choose.
There is power in speaking the truth to ourselves and to our children. Lies defeat, but the truth sets us free. Many of our battles are fought in our minds. Truth-telling is the process of renewing our minds. (Romans 12:2)
When we give our children truth for their minds, their hearts take over and they begin to act on that truth. My son used to tell me that he did not love me, and that he only loved his daddy. Instead of telling him how that hurt me, I started telling him, "I love your company." Before long, he and the rest of my children started saying that to me, my husband and to each other. It made such a difference in our family.
As my children speak these positive phrases, I am seeing them set free from things I struggled with into adulthood. And now, when I am tempted to fear, lack trust, be impatient, or whatever, my children repeat these phrases back to me!
Crestview, Florida, USA
Here are a few things I do to encourage my children individually.
1. I leave them a note where they'll be sure to find it (in their desk, under their pillow, taped to the headboard, etc.). I give them notes when they are feeling down or have done something well.
2. Occasionally, I, do their chores for them. Imagine their gratitude when they come down to do their "mundane" chore and it's done for them! They are surprised that someone would do something for them when it isn't their birthday or any other special occasion. I give them a squeeze and tell them I did it because I love them.
3. We have a "pep" talk. I remind them of how blessed they are compared to most of the rest of the world. I gently remind them of the orphans, persecuted Christians and poor around the world. This helps them to get the focus off of themselves. We then begin naming things that we can be thankful for.
Here are a few encouraging things I do when the whole group needs a "lift".
1. I bake or bring home a special treat for all of them.
2. I yell "everyone in the car" for a spur-of-the-moment outing to our local nature museum, a walk by the river, or playing at the park.
3. We play "Pollyanna". For those who aren't familiar with her, she is a little girl who finds the bright side in everything. She makes a game of it and delights in the challenge of finding something to be grateful for in the most difficult situations. The book is well-worth the read. Don’t bother with the movie versions!
4. We have a "praise" service. I join all the children together to sing and take turns naming things we are thankful for. This quickly removes the sour looks from their faces!
5. My husband and I pack up the children for an outing to one of the beautiful sights around our home--mountains, lakes, rivers, caves, etc. It is very difficult to be down when you are marveling at God's creation.
Bend, Oregon, USA
The Special Plate
Here in New Zealand there is a Christian Parenting Organisation called Parenting with Confidence. One of the products they promote is the “Red Plate”. It is a red dinner plate with writing in the centre saying, 'You're a Star'.
In our house, whenever a parent notices something great a child has done during the day, out comes the red plate in their place at the table that night. They rarely know it is coming, and as we use it only once or twice a week, it is always a surprise. There are shouts of glee when they see it in their place, and great is the excitement and suspense as they wait for grace to be said before they find out “why they got it.”
While it does come out for obvious successes e.g. toilet training, reading first words, climbing up a difficult area of the playground for the first time, etc, it also comes out for character issues such as a shy child using good manners to an adult on the street, or a toddler helping his sister put her toys away.
You do not have to purchase the 'red plate' to incorporate this into your lives. Any “special” plate from a garage sale would do. The magic is in the honour it bestows!
As well as encouraging the “child of the moment”, it also encourages other children to learn to congratulate each other and cope well with not being “the chosen one” at the time. Now whenever something great happens (e.g. first ride on bike without trainer wheels) you can here the children call to each other, “Maybe you'll get the red plate tonight!”
Geraldine, South Canterbury, New Zealand
Mommies in Training
I encourage my little girls to be helpful. I make it a point to let them participate in the things that I'm doing. This generally means the task will take twice as long but the gleam in their eye after it's completed is worth it. They are so proud of the fact that they are mommy's little helper.
They help me sweep and mop the floor, make bread, make their bed, unload the dishwasher, bring in the firewood, do the laundry and so on. They are little mommy's in training and I praise them for being such good little helpers.
Ortonville, Michigan USA
On a bulletin board, I tack pocket folders for each person in the family, and an extra one for strips of paper. Throughout the day, when I see something the children are doing that I can praise them for, I write it down on a strip of colorful paper and put it in their pocket. After dinner in the evening (but while we are still sitting around the table) my husband reads them out loud for all of us to hear.
The children are so excited to be praised, but especially because it is in front of their daddy. This is also a good way for Mike to keep up with the godly character development of his children.
I collect all the strips and at the end of a week or two each person has a page full of encouragement strips. It takes no time to tape them on to a piece of white copy paper (one for each person), slip them into a page protector and into a binder. The children love to look back at their encouragement notes. I also praise my husband for things at the same time by writing something for him each day.
This also helps my children to learn the art of giving praise. They write notes to other family members too. Even my four year old, who doesn't write well yet, likes to write "HI" for all of us.
My days always go better when I look for things to praise each child instead of seeing their weaknesses.
Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA
The Marble Jar
Any time I see one of my children doing something good, e.g. being kind to a sibling, colouring carefully in the lines, doing a chore without being reminded, writing particularly neatly, I might say, “Put a marble in the jar!”. There is one jar between siblings to encourage them to work together for a common cause and together they pick a reward when the jar is full. It may be a family night with a movie, popcorn and chocolate, or a picnic tea in the park.
Belgrave Heights, Victoria, Australia. We often see kangaroos and echidnas in our backyard!
Take Time to Listen
The main way I encourage my children is by listening to them and waiting for their point of view before I spout off an answer. Listen, then listen some more. Hugs are always on order in our house, too. I think hugs are one of the best ways to encourage someone, whether they are tired, not feeling well, exasperated or frustrated.
Salpulpa, Oklahoma, USA
Hope instead of Criticism
I had to change my bad ways and overcome the critical way I corrected my children. I went from "don't you ever do that again" which sets them up for failure and therefore discouragement to "I know you'll do better next time." My children are always hurt by my criticism, but when I correct with that added hope for improvement, they don't call it "criticism" anymore.
I was tired of correcting only. Now I look for things to praise them. Every kind word or deed, every helpful action, every Christ-like behavior, any improvement in areas under development gets a kind word, a smile, or a compliment from Mom. They may not respond in visual or verbal ways but I know they receive it.
I sometimes just give the encouraging look. I catch their eye and then smile big at them to say, "I love you, you are special." It can even say that I am glad we are here together.
Mothers, don't give up. We are teachers and trainers of our children who will be leaders in the near future.
MARY ANN AVERY
Dickson, Tennessee, USA
Children are easy to encourage. Instead of being on the lookout for what they do "wrong" or "bad", we should be on the lookout for what they do "right" or "good". Harp on the negative? You get sick of being around that type of person, no matter who they are! I think we should verbally tell our children when they have done well.
I also touch my children. Who doesn't like a comforting touch? When I walk by one of them, I give them a back scratch, touch their hair, or give their shoulder a little squeeze. Even my 19 year old still enjoys a "mommy hug"!
We also go on "dates” - just me and one of the children. Whether it is a trip to the store or we go out for a drink, it's just the two of us. We have great talks this way, and of course listening. No advice, just a handy ear.
The children also enjoy receiving mail so I often mail them a small card.
Raytown, Missouri, USA
Be Encouraged to Encourage
To encourage my children, I start with encouraging myself. I do this through reading God’s Word. I began a daily journal in 1997 after we began homeschooling. I realized that this was a task much bigger than I could handle in my own strength. I asked the Lord for one specific encouragement to write in my journal each day as I read through the Scriptures. I made it a priority and did it before I had any breakfast.
I would purposely try to recall that encouraging word at specific times throughout the day and it helped me to encourage my children. I am challenged by the quote, “We will teach what we know, but we will reproduce who we are.”
I try to use specific encouragement. Instead of a general "that was helpful” I say, “You saw dishes that needed to be put away and you did it. Thank you." Specific encouragement is a big motivator!
I also look for their unique qualities and imagine how God can use those qualities to build His kingdom. My son has a brilliant wit, but can sometimes be hurtful to his siblings. He doesn't always communicate clearly, but expects others to understand his mumbling.
I tell him regularly that I believe that one day he is going to communicate God's truths and have an impact for the Kingdom of God. He is beginning to speak more clearly and use his gifts to express himself thoughtfully.
Another great way I encourage my children is to read them biographies of great Christians who have made an impact upon the world. We usually read one chapter of a biography after we read a chapter from the Bible. We have been inspired by so many great lives as we read how they made difficult choices to follow God or find unique ways to use their talents and gifts for His work.
I am extremely encouraged to see my older sons seeking God and walking in His ways. It is wonderful to be able to discuss the things of God with our adult children and hear their burden to reach out to their generation!
Cape Town, South Africa
A Forgiving Attitude
I really want my children to learn to seek forgiveness when they have wronged God or someone else but I don’t want to make them ask for forgiveness because it is given as a command. God burdened my heart to model asking for forgiveness to encourage them to do the same.
When I sin against my children I ask for their forgiveness. It has been amazing to see their response and how much they learn from my example. Now my older children will come to me when I don't even know they have done something wrong, confess it and ask for forgiveness.
Olathe, Kansas, USA
My six year old son, Elijah has been going through a time of doubting that God hears his prayers. He was getting surprisingly jaded for such a young child. So one night as I was putting the boys to bed, I began to tell them all the prayers that God has answered for us--money, health, a home, children--everything that I could think of. I even told of prayers that were not answered and how God had used that in our lives.
I spoke with lots of animation and excitement. By the end of our talk, Elijah was smiling and his eyes were really shining.
He still sometimes tells me that God doesn't answer his prayers, but I use this as a chance to talk about things that God can do during a time of telling us "no" or "not now."
We talk about God's wisdom being greater than ours and how He can see and know things that we can't. An unanswered prayer is a time to trust. It encourages him to keep praying and challenges him to have a right attitude when he doesn't get what he wants.
Winchester, Kentucky, USA
I Love You!
Since the day the eldest was born we have made a concerted effort to say to each child every day the words, "I love you" even if they are asleep when we remember to say it. We say these words to them whether they have had a good day with us or if they have incurred our displeasure.
The children now automatically and naturally come up to both of us at various times of the day and tell us, “Mum/Dad "I love you." We have experienced sad times when either my wife or myself has shed tears for whatever reason. In that sad moment, we have felt their little arms coil around us and the words, "I love you, Mum/Dad" whispered into our ears.
NEIL AND EMMA D’SILVA