Words of encouragement for kids is critical when setting expectations. As christian women, moms, and/or teachers, you can encourage children to meet expectations that will help them to be Godly children. #encouragement #teachingkids #parentingtips #FaithattheFoot
As a mom and teacher at church, I don’t always give encouragement to my children or to the kids I interact with outside my home.
In my early years as a mom and Sunday school teacher, I believed that I could enforce expectations with a stern look, firm voice, or prompt discipline. And well, yeah, that does work sometimes, for some kids, but it isn’t a panacea.
I wonder about the lasting effect of a child being forced into something rather than finding the right way via encouragement. How will these kids respond to expectations when they are older? Will they feel compelled to follow rules and live a life pleasing to God when enforcing ceases to exist?
Is your first attempt at helping children meet expectations done through enforcement or encouragement?
Whether you set expectation for your own children and/or for those you teach at church, think about this:
Expectations guide children with borders that keep them on the right path. Encouragement inspires them to stay within those boundaries when tempted to take the wrong path.Click To Tweet
The Importance of Words of Encouragement for Kids
Which type of expectation are you more willing to meet? An expectation that has negative consequences if unmet? Or an expectation that offers benefits if reached?
I’ll take the one with perks any day.
Children need motivation like the rest of us! Motivation might come in the form of a reward (such as earned screen time or a pack of Pokemon cards, as is the case with my two boys!), but more often than not, purposeful encouragement renders the same result as an award.
Why? Perhaps the answers has to do with this…Expectations without encouragement become rules to follow. But expectations with encouragement transform into goals to achieve.Click To Tweet
Now, I’m not arguing against obedience. God calls us to obey and submit. But why demand with an iron fist and a “because I said attitude”? (Please tell me I’m not the only one who acts like a dictator from time to time!) God doesn’t do this.
God commands, but He also encourages. In Joshua 1, God encourages Joshua to “be strong and of courage” as he prepares to enter the promised land. And after Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew 28, He encourages the disciples with a promise that they do not have to teach the nations alone.
Boy am I thankful that our King encourages!
A Different Way to Define Encourage
Think of encouragement as a needed surprise wrapped in shiny paper. Who wouldn’t accept a pretty present? That’s encouragement. When we extend encouragement with our support, words, and/or actions, we offer something that most will willingly receive.
Yet, encouragement is more than that.
Encouragement packages up courage, which gives us the strength to overcome challenges and the motivation to reach positive outcomes.Click To Tweet
Why encourage? Look no further than the Bible, which tells us that we should encourage to:
- remind of God’s promises (1 Thessalonians 4:18);
- keep others from sin (Hebrews 3:13);
- build up those that might be struggling (Romans 15:2);
- offer comfort (1 Thessalonians 5:14);
- help others find the truth of God’s word (Titus 1:9); and
- motivate others to live in a way that brings joy to the Lord (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
Encouraging Scripture That Teaches How to Encourage
The Bible offers plenty of verses on how to encourage, but a few in particular stick out to me.
1. SPEAK SWEET WORDS.
“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24, KJV).
I once read that for every negative thing you say to a child, you should say three positives. The logic of this seems simple. Encouragement works at building up, not tearing down.
Praise children as often as you can by calling out out positive behavior such as:
- met expectations
- good effort
- Godly character
- personal growth
Do you ever put down, yell, or demand in an attempt to enforce an expectation?
Why not substitute negativity with sweet words that point out strengths and build confidence? Children want to believe they can meet expectations, otherwise, why would they even try?
Be sure to give children opportunities to display praiseworthy behavior (this is especially important for challenging children). At home you can have your child prepare dinner with you, for example, and then point out their willingness to help. If you teach at church, ask children questions and praise them for their effort or success in answering.
2. REMIND AND SUPPORT WITH PATIENCE.
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, KJV).
Rather than telling children to stop a negative behavior or stating expectations repeatedly, remind and support with patience by:
- asking questions (e.g., How do you think that made your brother feel when you hit him?);
- shifting focus (e.g., Would you like to move your seat over there so you can see me better?);
- providing encouragement to an entire group even if only one child is struggling (e.g., Remember children, when we are kind to one another we earn stickers on our star chart); and
- giving options that point to desired expectation (e.g., Would you like to clean your room before dinner or after dinner?).
Don’t forget to point out the expectation in the positive (let’s put on our listening ears) rather than in the negative (stop talking).
3. PROVIDE THE WHY WITH GOD’S WORD.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV).
Children have an insatiable curiosity for the why. (Don’t we too?) Encourage children with an answer that comes from scripture.
The best answer to why comes from the Bible. However, children might tune out scripture’s answer if all you do is dictate it to them. Instead, try to provide the answer to why with God’s word by:
- centering a devotion/church lesson on a challenging expectation (e.g., obedience);
- paraphrasing the Bible (e.g.,“Remember that by having patience you are showing me that you have the fruit of the spirit);
- offering personal experience (e.g., When I am struggling, I think about about the verse ‘Pray without ceasing’ and I pray to God to help me with my problem. Would you like me to pray with you?”); and
- presenting a fun fact (e.g., Did you know that the Bible says the devil will try to get us to sin and that to win against the devil we should read our Bible and pray?).
4. FOSTER POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS.
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25, KJV).
Relationships are key to encouragement for kids or anyone for that matter. They reveal how best to encourage and why to encourage.
When “assembling” together with the children in your life, ask them about school and friends. Observe situations where they excel and struggle. Connect with other adults in their life to learn something about them that you didn’t know. You will better relate and have more compassion towards your children and those you influence when you put in the effort to really get to know them.
When you form a special bond with children (again it may be your child or a child you work with) they gain the attention and love they desire along with a person they can count on when they struggle. In turn, you obtain insight and perspective into the children you create positive relationships with. These relationships can support you in being an effective encourager by helping you to:
- understand children’s actions;
- recognize strengths and weaknesses;
- discern why encouragement is required; and
- set realistic expectations.
5. SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).
When I see others meeting expectations, I am encouraged to do the same. I tend to think children are this way too. By being an example to children, you are showcasing that you are held to the same standards (bring your Bible to class!), that meeting expectations isn’t always easy (staying calm during conflict), and the value of rising to the occasion (honoring God).
Be an example not only by following the specific expectations you set, but by modeling self-sacrifice, control, and mercy. Do not allow the actions of children to sabotage a Christ-like response or let your emotions cloud your judgement of how best to encourage.
You can serve as an example by:
- forgiving (and forgetting!) children’s missteps no matter how often they occur;
- displaying love in difficult situations (e.g., patience with a repeatedly disobedient child);
- meeting a child’s need rather than you own (e.g., seeking out the why behind children disobeying rather than thinking about how it affects you); and
- modeling expected behaviors (e.g., apologizing to children if you lose your patience).
I hope this list of how to encourage helps you with your children at home and those you might work with at church and beyond.
What bible verse do you find most encouraging and how can you use it to encourage others?