Ways to Affirm and Build Up My Child

Ways to build your children up with words, games and activities

Lately, it seems I’ve been scolding my children a lot.

I scold when they’re sluggish. When they fight, whine or procrastinate. When they distract themselves while doing homework. When they’re too boisterous during meals. All this seems to require me giving a lecture.

Sometimes I feel like I’m scolding continuously. Sometimes I even catch derisiveness in my tone. I scold when an accident occurs, or when I’m not feeling good, or when I’m tired. After a while, they do seem to wilt under this treatment.

Parents must have done the same thing in St. Paul’s time as well. “Do not provoke your children,” he advised the Colossians, “so they won’t become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)

Yes, my kids need discipline, but I want to give them correction that ‘is helpful for building them up according to their needs.’ (Ephesians 4:29) I want to build them up, not tear them down. So, here are a few things I’ve been trying to put into practice in our home.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

This week I took each of my children aside and whispered: “You are incredibly precious and beautiful to me.” Each child immediately perked up. My kids were actually better behaved that evening, and more eager to please. Pleasant and loving words of affirmation, when honestly meant, can make children blossom. It’s like watering their souls and bodies.

Attentive Listening & Response

When my son Gabriel was two, he babbled or wouldn’t talk at all. No adult could understand him when he did talk. My husband became concerned and decided to try something new. Every time Gabriel babbled incoherently, my husband got on his level, looked him in the eye and listened closely to every word, despite not understanding any of it.

My husband would then ask questions until he understood our son’s grunts. Within two weeks Gabriel was talking articulately. He just needed to be heard. I know I’m guilty of doing something else when my children are speaking to me. I very rarely look them in the eye and patiently listen. But focused, attentive listening and eye contact are important for building up of a person. Everyone needs to be heard and understood.

Group/Family Conversation

True family conversation isn’t always easy, but it’s important and becoming more rare in this age of electronic communication and loss of family mealtimes. True group conversation builds up the individual, because it validates each person’s thoughts and feelings within the larger picture.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, so it can help to have conversation pieces on hand. Last Sunday on the way to church, we discussed a short Bible verse and story from Tiny Thomists. The kids interacted far more than I thought they would. They were genuinely pleased that I wanted to know what they thought, and even bounced ideas off each other.

Games and Family Fun

Games don’t always involve conversation, but even the ones that aren’t “wordy” involve body language. They build up my kids by allowing competition in a loving and mostly structured environment. We get to test our sportsmanship through hide and seek, wrestling, card and board games. This tells our kids: we want to have fun with you. We enjoy you.

Reading Together

Reading in the evening is a super-easy way to build my children up with words, attention, conversation and positive messages. We are engaged in a family activity we can all enjoy, since I like stories as much as they do. One of my favorite memories: hearing my Bubbe (grandmother) calling out in her sweetly creaky voice, “Esio trot! Esio trot!” from one of Roald Dahl’s stories. Now I read those same books to my children.

Praying Together

We build one another up through words when we pray together to God.  Each family member is required to contribute to our prayers, whether the Rosary or grace before meals. The prayers of children are intensely important. They should know that in the spiritual realm their prayers are invaluable: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” (Psalm 8:2)

Parental Blessing

Lastly, I want to mention blessing our children. Each night I bless our kids with a simple prayer and the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads: “May the Lord bless and protect you all night long, and may His angels watch over you while you sleep.”

Blessing our children in God’s name is very Biblical and intensely significant, because through our blessing, God Himself puts His name on our children and blesses them (Numbers 6:24–27). I can’t think of a better building up--that of audibly putting our children in God’s hands every day and night.

Most of these examples I gave because they are aspects of building-up that I need to work on. I see firsthand the effects when I don’t do any one of these things on a regular basis. Parenting is not easy; I will never be able to give my kids everything they need. I can only keep trying to do the best I can, and always, always give my children over to the hands of God.

Rebecca O’Loughlin is a Byzantine Catholic mother with 5 children (newborn to tween). She enjoys running her shop (Brushes2Halos), writing, and adventuring with her children--whether on a flight with their airplane pilot dad, or through the pages of Narnia.

Looking for easy ways to affirm your kids in writing? Try our Affirmation Pillows with Note Cards.

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