(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Col. 3:21 NIV);
“But let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:25 NIV)
Just after the service at church one Sunday morning, a lady leaned over our pew and whispered, “I just wanted you to know how impressed I am at how close your family is!”
I stared up in surprise.
“Yes,” she continued. “I’m a retired teacher, and I can tell you, it’s very rare for a teenager to put his arm around his mother in public!”
My mind went back to the praise and worship service when my oldest son had put his arm around my shoulder, and the memory made me smile. What the kind lady didn’t know, however, is that in my house this isn’t rare. My husband and I have always looked for ways to show our boys affection. As a result, they know their parents are proud of them, they have a healthy self-esteem, and they are not ashamed to show their own affection, even in public.
Showing affection may not seem like such a powerful thing, but it is. Little gestures–a hug, a pat on the back, a kiss on the cheek–speak novels: “I love you.” And “I’m glad you are my child.” Likewise words–spoken or written (a card, a note, a poem)–all scream out the message: “I’m really proud of you!” Or “I know you’ll do well, and I’ll be praying for you.” A bunch of flowers, a donut, a privilege, or other niceties all say: “I love you for who you are. We may have our differences, but I accept those differences.” The point is, it isn’t the method that matters, it’s simply the fact that you EXPRESS that affection!
Why is expressing our emotions and our affection important?
1. First of all, because as the adult in that child’s life, he or she is looking to YOU for acceptance. That child needs to know that you love them, no matter what.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard kids say, “My mom doesn’t care what I do!” Or, “All my dad cares about is that I make the football team! I hate football, but I can’t let him down!” Many kids quit trying to make their parents happy because they don’t think anything they do is ever good enough. Others think they have nothing in common with their parents. My own brother-in-law started drinking so that he would have something in common with his father, so that his father would accept him.
Let’s face it folks, if your kids don’t find the acceptance they crave from you, they will seek it in other ways. They will turn to their friends. Or drugs. Or alcohol. Or a myriad of other non-productive avenues. They need to know that YOU love them for who they are!
2. Secondly, expressing your affection helps the children in your lives to build self-esteem. When kids–or adults, for that matter!–feel they aren’t accepted, they begin to see themselves as sub-standard. This pushes them to seek acceptance in other things–like success, winning, being popular–instead of realizing that their differences are God-given and there’s nothing wrong with being different.
3. Finally, expressing your feelings also helps kids learn how to express their own emotions: “And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities . . .” (Heb 10:24 AMP). When we show affection, we are “stirring up” our kids to love, to do helpful deeds, to do noble activities. Not only will this help improve communication in our society, but it will help to build self-esteem and self-acceptance. It will go a long ways towards building a new society!
Some of you may be saying right now, “My kid knows how I feel. I don’t need to say it!”
But do they? Does your boy know you’re proud of him for making the football team? Does your girl know you’re proud of her for trying out for volleyball, even though she didn’t make it? Do they realize that you love them even though they bring home a “D”? Yell at their little brother? Forget to do their homework?
No. They don’t. Especially not a teen, and especially not in the heat of the moment. In fact, if you take the time and effort to find out, you would be shocked at what you learn! Oh, they may say the right things, but their low self-esteem or their search for acceptance say otherwise.
Friends, your kids DON’T know how you feel unless you tell them. Reach out today. Show those kids you care. Give them that hug or a kiss. Clap them on the back. Whisper in their ear that you are proud of them, that you accept them, even if their interests aren’t the same as yours. Tell them with a card. Tell them with a note left on their dresser. Take them out for ice cream. However you decide to do it, just tell them! When you do, you will be creating an entire new generation of adults who will accept themselves for who they are!
Now, I recognize that some of you may not know how to express your emotions, and the idea of telling the kids in your life how you feel about them makes you very uncomfortable. If this describes you, then ask God to show you how to show affection in a way your kids will understand, and then ask Him to give you the courage and strength to do it.
Join us next week for a the introduction to a short series your kids won’t want you to read: “What About Discipline?” Bringing up Kids God’s Way, Part 12A.
God bless each of you abundantly as you seek to guide the kids in your life in the ways of the Lord!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, www.scripturalnuggets.org , a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)