What does it mean to be an encourager? By breaking down the word, we can see that it literally means "to put courage in". I love the mental picture that brings when thinking about my children. We have come to understand that this world can be a harsh place. If we are striving to raise Godly children in a Godless society, they will face abundant challenges, doubts, and uncertainties - many that were unheard of even when I was growing up.
How can we help our children be strong? One way is to be an encouragement to them on a daily basis.
Here is the dictionary definition for encourage: (taken from Dictionary.com)
verb (used with object), encouraged, encouraging.
to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence:
His coach encouraged him throughout the marathon race to keep on running.2.
to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.:
One of the chief duties of a teacher is to encourage students.
I love the first definition, emphasizing inspiring our children. As parents, we are the first line of defense against discouragement and defeat in our children's lives. If we truly believe they can accomplish something, and help them set out to reach their goals, their life will be significantly impacted for good. Yes, times of defeat will come, but what an opportunity they can be to inspire our children and equip them with the tools needed to get through it without being destroyed or distraught.
Having the approval and acceptance of parents is vital to a child's overall well being. After many years of working with young people and seeing shattered lives, I am completely convinced that children crave their parent's approval, and are devastated without it. Encouraging them regularly demonstrates this, and places the parent as an anchor in the child's life.
How can we encourage our kids?
- Look for the good in them, and praise it. Try to compliment good behavior and character when it is demonstrated, to reinforce those desired actions. Compliment inner character over outward beauty, yet don't neglect to let them know that you value everything about them, even their appearance.
- Find the good. Some days an ornery child may not be very complimentary. Search for something good to value and praise, even if it is little.
- Encourage quickly and easily. Don't withhold praise when it is due. Letting your child know you appreciate their hard work, and that they did a good job, gives them deep inner satisfaction.
- Tell them often how much you love them, that they are a gift and blessing from the Lord, and that you enjoy them.
- Show that you enjoy them by hanging out with them and doing fun things.
- Don't just "love" them, but "like" them as well!
- Pray for them, and let them know that you are. Ask them what they need prayer for, and then pray with them about it. Praise the Lord together for the answered prayers in their life.
- Look for ways to build their confidence. Let them attempt some difficult (age and ability appropriate) things on their own. It's great to give a little instruction then step back and let them take off with an idea. This shows that you are confident in their abilities and that you don't always have to step in, take over, and 'do it for them'. Yes, they may mess up a little at first, but rather than jumping in to help, share a story where you messed up in a similar way and laugh together about it!
Our kids need to feel special and loved, and the easiest way to make that happen is to encourage them as often as we can. Be their cheerleader, and don't ever let them feel as if they are facing this world on their own.
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