Not long ago, my son asked my wife, “Was dad proud?” Then he said,”I work hard to make that man proud!”
His statement reminded me of the power of parental affirmation, and of how often I fail to let him know how proud I am of him! Affirmation is HUGE! The most hopeless young person is the one who feels he or she “just can’t win.” And too often, we as parents, inadvertently lead our kids to that conclusion. We can too easily or too quickly focus on “what still needs improvement” and miss “what’s right” in our kids lives. (I’m speaking to me!)
I’m not the “affirming parent” that I want to be—and that’s partially why I made this list. It’s what I see good parents do—the parents I wish I were more like—the parents I strive to be like! So, as food for thought, here’s a starter list of fifteen ways we could affirm our kids this week:
Speak Praise to Them—just pause in an unexpected moment and say, “Hey, I just want you to know I’m proud of you, and here are some reasons why!” or “Hey, I want you to know you’re really doing a great job in (fill in the blank here!)”
Write a Specific Note to Them—Write out the good qualities and successes you see unfolding in their lives. Even better—mail it to them. Their surprise is well worth the fifty cents!
Speak Highly of Them In Front of Others—When they can hear you, speak up to others about some of the ways you see them growing, doing right, or working hard. They will rise in their attempt to live up to your decsription!
Acknowledge Their Heart—Let them know you understand their good intentions, even when the outcome isn’t what you intended!
Seek to Understand Their Emotions—There’s something powerful about having “the way you feel” validated by someone in authority—even if the circumstances can’t change. You may not be able to give them their way, but you could let them know you understand how they feel.
Reward Them Tangibly—Pick up and give a gift for no reason other than the fact that you are proud of their good efforts in some area.
Honor Them Intangibly—Prefer them in a way that lets them know they are highly valued and esteemed by you. Treat them like you would treat someone very important in your world.
Spend Time With Them—They already know you’re busy, so giving them quantity and quality time will speak loudly as to your love and honor toward them.
Express Physical Affection Toward Them—Again, just randomly pause, wrap them up in your arms, and squeeze for a while. And while you do, say something like, “I love you so much! I can’t believe how awesome you are!”
Surprise Them—Their favorite restaurant or meal, a new book, a special event, or a spontaneous family memory—do something awesome that they aren’t expecting, and let them know it’s because you are proud of them.
Do a Random Act of Kindness for Them—Help them clean out their closet, fill their car with gas, send a quick text message, pick them up at school and go to lunch. There are about ten million other ideas you could come up with on your own.
Genuinely Admire Them—Pause, think about your child, and consider the ways they excel. Consider the areas in which you might even envy them—and then celebrate those qualities. (Be honest—some times and in some ways our kids flat put us to shame!)
Praise Them Publicly—This isn’t bragging if it’s done in the right way, from a grateful heart—but acknowledge what your children are doing right and what God is teaching you through them. One easy way to do this is to thank them in front of others.
Defer to Their Decision (When Possible)—Don’t fight over things worth losing. Preferring one another is a wonderful expression of love. For instance, let them choose where or what to eat for dinner. When possible, let them make a key decision and praise them for “getting it right.”
Made a Big Deal of Good Decisions—When your kids make a wise choice, go nuts! Celebrate spiritual victories with all the zeal and energy of a lunatic Super Bowl fan!
Man, do I want to grow in this area! I have so much room for improvement, and I’m sure you do too. Ask the Lord to give you an affirming spirit, and to make consistent affirmation a ritual part of your parenting efforts!