A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Four-year-old William gets plenty of correction and scoldings. Because of his impulsive, active nature, it feels appropriate to stay on him and to correct his every stray action – for his safety alone. However his spirit begins to whither under such scrutiny. The moment I find opportunities to express delight or speak affirmingly to him as well, his brown eyes light up and he struggles to hold back a smile. Then with his head held high, he becomes more complaint. At least for awhile!
Like Will, a few of my other grandchildren are emotion driven as well. They tend to do what they want to do when they want to do it. Their actions are often steered by their emotions alone and in the midst of battles, they seem to have an innate need to gain dramatic reactions from others. Therefore, when we respond more intensely to their naughty behaviors than we do to their good behaviors, we wind up reinforcing exactly the opposite of what we want to see happen.
What we give our energy and attention to will grow.
Just like our fears and worries, which grow when we feed them with attention, so it is with the behaviors of our children. Of course it’s our responsibility as parents to train and correct our children. They certainly need us to stand as loving authorities in their lives as they mature and grow. However, an even higher duty is to regularly encourage them and intentionally affirm them by speaking words of belief in who they are becoming. We must be mindful that:
Love sees through a telescope —not a microscope.
What draws your attention with your own children? What messages do your words regularly communicate? Here’s four keys to keep in mind:
1. Correction counsels their minds. Affirmation reaches their hearts.
Children need to hear words that are “good for building as fits the occasion” (Ephesians 4:29). It’s easy in the busyness of the day to make time for criticism and correction, yet fail to see occasions when we can rightfully express encouragement and appreciation. Kids thrive however in an environment rich with thoughtful, affirming, life-giving words.
Be to his virtues very kind. Be to his faults a little blind.
The kindly word that falls today may bear its fruit tomorrow.
Don’t’ let the seeds spoil your enjoyment of a watermelon. Just spit out the seeds.
2. Daily find opportunities to express delight in them.
“Your sons and daughters need to know how precious they are in your eyes and how precious they are in the eyes of God. Let them know that the Lord takes pleasure in his people (Psalm 149:4) and even His reproof is out of delight for His children (Proverbs 3:12). They don’t benefit from flattery nor excessive praise but they benefit deeply from knowing that you enjoy spending time with them, that you value who they are, and believe in who they are becoming. Determine to express delight in your children regularly so they won’t feel the need to find this elsewhere.” (Free to Parent Workbook, page 53)
3. Be cheerful.
Have fun with your kids. Be enthusiastic and joyful. Smile. With a positive attitude, those moments of difficulty with your children can be turned into moments of growth and redemption.
Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.
That load becomes light which is cheerfully borne.
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.
4. Be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).
Lecture less and listen more. In doing so your will increase your influence in their lives. Your kids need to know that you understand their struggles and hear their hearts before they will pay any attention to your words.
Better to let them wonder why you didn’t talk than why you did.
Tact is the ability to close your mouth before someone else wants to.
One reason a dog is such a loveable creatures is that his tail wags instead of his tongue.
NOTE: During my college years, I read and re-read Apples of Gold, a compilation of saying put together by Jo Betty in 1962. In this post, I share some of my favorites which are included in blue/green above.