The Gift of Affirmation

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver."--Prov. 25:11 Don't you love receiving a word or note of affirmation or praise? Seriously, I know that the words of support, encouragement and blessing from my husband, kids or friends have a great impact on me. I think I can live on a good word for days!

As one of the five "love languages," I think that affirmation is one of those gifts that do not require much from us, yet yield incredible fruit. Yesterday, we talked about giving our kids the gift of security through loving words. But there are times when it needs to go beyond that to words of affirmation.

With my kids, it is so easy for me to focus on the things that bug me, the ways they have fallen short or the mistakes they have made. And being a kid, they're bound to do that often. Very often. When I only see those shortcomings, instead of giving them grace to grow, I end up harping on them and jumping on them every time they mess up. That level of perfectionism is hard for a kid to live under.

So, another gift that I can give is affirmation---not just glossing over faults and sins, but learning to see the God-given fingerprints all over my children, and celebrating them. My oldest has a knack for creating things and making beautiful artwork. My middle child has a gentle spirit, which when coupled with his emerging leadership qualities, is quite a powerful combination. My youngest baby is quite bold and forthright. All these are the seeds that are going to come into fruition some day. My job is to affirm them when I see them.

Another way that I can affirm my children is by giving them my attention and time. I had written a post last year about this gift and I need to revisit it constantly. As a mom, there's a lot to do, and since we have moved, it has taken me twice as long to do what I used to do at home. (It's hard to learn new things after doing them the same way for 12 years!) To stop and pay attention to their needs or to play a game or to soothe a hurt or even to explore the cause of a temper tantrum lets them know that they matter, that they register on my radar and that they are worth my time and attention.

Lastly, we can affirm our children by listening to them. Not just hearing them, but listening beneath the surface. Admittedly, this is probably the hardest thing for me. I don't do this very well with my kids. I'm much better at this with adults and friends, but sometimes, I really don't want to listen to the latest Ninjago release or worse, complaints or frustrations.

The fact is, real listening takes time. It takes time to get beneath the surface. It takes time to let them prattle on about something they're excited about. When I brush them off or give them a distracted grunt, then what am I saying to them? My actions speak louder than my words.

Our children need our affirmation, not just once in a while, but on a regular basis. I'm not saying be fake or tell untruths, but to constantly be open to what God is doing in their lives---and then tell them. There is a time for corrections and discipline. I wish I could say I did this more often. But all too often I zoom in on the bad and forget the good.

Note to self: seek to find at least one thing to affirm in my children daily or take the time to affirm them by giving them my attention or by listening to them. I hope and pray that the Lord will use these to plant good seed into the hearts of my children that will help them to grow up with a sense of God's purpose and courage in what He is doing in their lives.

How will you give the gift of affirmation to your children today?