When my son was young, he once shut his friend’s finger in the door accidentally. I found him huddled in his room crying. He didn’t hurt his friend on purpose! My heart hurt for my son at that moment.
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How often do we cause pain or some sort of damage unintentionally? I don’t think any of us want to parent that way.
When we act and react without being purposeful and deliberate, we will often hurt our kids in some way accidentally. So let’s choose to be intentional parents.
I hope you understand this, though: Being an intentional parent doesn’t mean you will be a perfect parent. But even in our imperfection, we can teach our kids about forgiveness, grace, and how to love one another even when we fail.
How to Parent Intentionally with Praise and Encouragement
Do you remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Honestly, I think that is one of the most untrue statements a person could make. Words are powerful.
The Bible says:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21, ESV
As intentional parents, we can choose to give life with our words. And one of the ways we do that is by giving our kids praise and encouragement.
Larry Crabb identifies two core needs everyone has—the need for significance and security. He states, “We are motivated to meet our needs for significance and security in ways we unconsciously believe will work.” (Effective Biblical Counseling).
But these ways are often broken.
We try to feel significant through accomplishment and admiration. We search for security in money or relationships. But it is only in Christ that these needs are truly met.
When we give intentional words of praise and encouragement to our children, we will help them know that they are valued and loved because of who they are in Christ.
We teach them that they have “everything they need for life and godliness.” (see 2 Peter 1:3)
Intentional Parents use Words of Praise
Praise: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something
As an intentional parent, you think about the purpose of praise.
Let’s go back to the idea that our kids need to feel significant. So many people try to find their significance apart from Christ, but accomplishments and physical strength and beauty will never fill them up. Only Christ can do that.
Because of that, I believe the most effective words of praise emphasize Christ-like character foremost. And they are specific.
1. Words of praise emphasize Christ-like character.
So when you see your kids act selflessly, praise them for it. When you see them admit they are wrong and take responsibility for their actions, praise them for it. When they humble themselves or put others first or love sacrificially, praise them for it.
When you see fruit in their lives, praise them for it.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22–23, ESV
2. Words of praise are specific.
Every child is unique. I know that seems pretty obvious, but when we dole out words of praise that are general in nature, we miss an opportunity to reach our each child as an individual.
Words of praise have so much more impact when they are specific.
Think about the difference between the following:
“You are so nice.”
“I noticed how you let your brother go first. It made him so happy. That was a great way to show him that you love him.”
Intentional Parents Use Words of Encouragement
Just as words of praise can strengthen a child’s sense of significance, words of encouragement can help them know they are secure.
Encouragement: the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope
I like to think of it this way: enCOURAGE—to give courage to someone.
How can we encourage our kids?
1. Let them know how much they are loved by you, and ultimately by God.
When someone feels secure, they know they are safe and free from danger. Once again, true security is only found in Christ. We will never be completely “safe” in this life. Bad things do happen. But we don’t have to be afraid of what might happen in this life, and neither do our children. As parents we can teach them where true security if found.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” Romans 8:35–39, ESV
2. Walk alongside them instead of trying to keep them from hurt and pain.
Sometimes our instincts to protect our kids aren’t always right. We don’t want them to feel hurt or pain and often do our best to keep them from it. But how will they ever learn to deal with these things if they don’t ever have to? How will they know that they can get through the hard stuff of life?
Teach them instead that they don’t have to do it alone.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9, ESV
3. Help them to know they can do hard things.
Your kids need to know they have grit. They will fail and struggle at times. There will be things they are naturally good at, and things that they aren’t good at.
But our failures and imperfections aren’t bad. They are opportunities to lean in to Christ’s strength.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, ESV
Sometimes it is in our greatest struggles that we see God working in ways we never imagined possible.
Action Steps To Parent Intentionally With Words of Praise & Encouragement:
- Download this free sheet: Ideas for Words of Praise & Encouragement.
- Look for a specific way to praise each of your children this week.
- Write a letter of encouragement to one or more of your children that is struggling in some area.
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A special thank you to today’s sponsor State History by A Helping Hand!
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Kay Chance is the mom of two homeschool graduates and the author of the Middle School Extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning series. She believes even the most overwhelmed, stressed-out homeschooling mom can cultivate the calm, deeply connected life she craves. You’ll find her sharing how at Heart-to-Heart Homeschooling.