If you want parenting advice, it’s pretty easy to find lots of experts who will help you guide your child away from bad habits. There is also a lot of advice on how to train on practical things like manners. When it comes to heart issues like speech though, it gets much tougher. The Bible tells us what comes out of our mouths reflects what is on our hearts. (Matthew 15:18) How do we mold the hearts of our children so what comes out of their mouths is positive, loving and uplifting?
In Kids, Speech and God, I shared some speech habits which may also reveal some heart issues in your child that need correcting. What if your child has conquered many of the negative speech habits, but isn’t necessarily replacing them with encouraging speech? How can you raise a child who is like Barnabas in the Bible? Barnabas was known for being godly and wise. He reflected God’s love by encouraging others. He regularly shared his faith and encouraged people like Paul to go out and use their gifts to serve and share their faith, too. How can you raise a modern Barnabas in today’s negative world?
There are probably many things you can do, but these will get you started:
- Define encouragement in godly ways. Encouragement is not insincere flattery. It is not lying to people. It is not giving people false self-esteem or false expectations. True godly encouragement is love. It is helping people find and develop the gifts God gave them to serve in the Kingdom. It is encouraging people to repent and live a godly life when they are struggling with sin. It is reminding people God loves them even when it may not feel like it. It helps people remain faithful to God during tough times.
- Be an encourager yourself. One of the rules of parenting is that you will be more successful at training your children to have certain godly characteristics if you regularly exhibit them yourself. Let your children hear you encourage people on a regular basis. Not just them and your spouse, but also friends, neighbors and other Christians.
- Find visible, practical ways to encourage others and do them with your kids. Although we are focusing on the verbal aspects of encouragement, there are many ways to encourage someone else. A note, a batch of cookies, a flower from your yard,or a photo can also encourage. Sometimes the physicality of putting together something to encourage someone will put the memory firmly in your child’s brain. It helps you communicate encouragement is part of your family’s DNA.
- Practice gratitude and consideration. If your family focuses on being grateful for everything and everyone (and what they do for you), you will find lots of things to encourage. If your family regularly practices being considerate to others, they will also begin to notice when someone looks sad or discouraged. Being aware of those who may need encouragement is a huge part of raising kids who are encouragers.
- Teach your kids that being an encourager may make them more popular (or not), but that should not be the reason they encourage others. Sometimes when we reflect God’s love well, people are drawn to us. The Bible tells us they will be, but that when they are, we are to point them towards God. Encouragement is not a political ploy your child should use to “win” at life, it’s what God tells us to do to draw people to want to learn more about Him, worship Him and obey Him.
Have some fun with it. See if you can make encouragement contagious. Share fun ideas your family executed to encourage others on the Parenting Like Hannah Facebook page or in a comment here. You can make your little corner of the world a place of godly encouragement!