Monday, June 6, 2011

Teaching Our Children the Gift of Grace: Part II

Giving Encouraging Words

In continuing our series on teaching our children grace, I want to look at another way in which we can help our children receive and, ultimately, give grace to others and that is through our use of encouraging words.
Words of instruction and training are indeed necessary to our children, but we must be careful not to discourage them though nagging, criticism, and reprimands. Even more important, we must balance our correction with words of encouragement and affirmation, words that our precious little ones will treasure in their hearts throughout their whole lives. (45)

-Sally Clarkson
Encouraging words do more than make us feel good: they build us up and give us life. They carry us through the tough times when we feel alone, disheartened, weak, and vulnerable. They comfort us and give hope.

One of my favorite scriptures is Ephesians 4:29:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
The words we use are powerful. They can either build up or tear down; they can either be beneficial or detrimental.

What effect do our words have on our children?

If you really don't think your words have much of an impact on your kids, do this simple exercise: Listen closely to your children while they are playing. What do you hear them saying? What specific words do they use? What is their tone?

By listening to what your children say and how they say it, you can gauge pretty closely what they are picking up from you, especially if they are at home with you for most of the day. Our kids listen very closely to what we say and how we say it.

This is what I heard from my two-year-old one afternoon:
"Mommy told you not to do that," speaking to her baby sister and to herself.

"No! No! No!"

"You're going to be [in] trouble!"

"I said, 'Stop!'"

"Get out of the way, people!" (She hears me say this to other drivers.)
I don't need a voice recorder or talking bird; my daughter has mastered the art of repetition. And, yes, she did say some positive words that she picked up from me, but those nice, affirming, loving words were clearly drowned out by the ugly, destructive, negative ones.

The words my daughter hears me say either directly to her or in her presence have an effect on her. She adopts them as her own even. Wouldn't I rather hear her saying more positive words instead of sounding like a nagging tyrant?
Balancing our words of discipline and correction with words of encouragement and affirmation is another way to impart the gift of grace to our children.

Don't get me wrong. As a parent, I am commanded by God to train and correct my children; their salvation is at stake. But could I modify my language a little? Could I use words that actually might encourage them to obey? Could I speak with a gentle, calm tone instead of out of anger and frustration? Yes, yes, I can.

In what ways can we affirm our children with our words? How can we help build them up instead of tearing them down?

(1) The obvious but most difficult way is to think before you speak. Ask yourself, "Will what I say edify or discourage my child? Will my words move her toward righteousness or away?"

(2) Find words of praise and encouragement even in difficult moments
. For example, yesterday, my daughter took a bottle of my hot pink nail polish and "painted" her hand and the carpet with it. After talking to her about her actions and the consequences, I hugged her and said:
You should not play with Mommy's things without asking first. You made a mistake; Mommy makes mistakes too. Next time, you need to ask me before you get into my things. I love you.
Yes, she had made a mistake--a huge, ugly, hot pink mistake--and, yes, I was very upset, but I knew that yelling at her and venting my frustrations would only hurt her and cause her to doubt my love.

(3) Reserve words of discipline for moments that truly require discipline. Ask yourself, "Is this really something that needs correction? " If not, avoid the language you use when you are dealing with a serious act of disobedience or disrespect and use words that encourage a different behavior.

(4) Don't talk about the problems you have had with your child in front of the child. Reserve these conversations for after your child has gone to bed or behind closed doors. There is no need for your child to hear for the umpteenth time how bad she is. Instead, find ways to praise and affirm your child to others.

Words of encouragement are vital to us as human beings. We thrive on affirmation to feel secure, accepted, and loved. Yet, offering encouraging words can be very difficult. Negative words roll so easily and quickly off our tongues while words of appreciation and love require a real concerted effort on our parts. But if we truly want to teach our children the gift of grace, we must extend grace to them by offering encouraging words.

Do you struggle with giving encouraging words to your children? If so, how do you plan to modify your language to teach your child grace?

This post is linked to Women in the Word Wednesday.


  1. multumesc din inima pt invataturile primite..dar sa stii e foarte toti oamenii sunt la fel cu un acelasi calm..dar cerem putere de sus si speram sa biruim.<3

  2. Thank you for your comment. Trust me in saying that I am usually not very calm either when disciplining my child; it takes a real concerted effort and lots of prayers! And I am a work in progress. But you are right; with God's help, I can do it.