This is the second post in a series by Pastor Kyla, highlighting small and simple steps that, by God's grace, help us develop spiritually healthy families.
My mom used to tell me that “its not what you say, it is how you say it that matters.” I have repeated the adage to my children, and heard many others say it to their children too, so I guess it must carry some level of merit. While tone and approach are significant factors in how a message is received (how we say it), I sense a need to revisit the actual content we communicate as well (what we say).
As part of our Two Steps series, parents are invited to revisit the content of what we are saying to our children in these two ways.
1) Speak encouragement instead of praise. In the Wizard of Oz the lion travels with Dorothy to seek out courage from the wizard. He seeks it because he believes he lacks it. In truth, the Lion didn't lack courage, he simply needed encouragement.
Encouragement is defined as the act of giving someone confidence and hope. Most parents offer children praise. We hear lots of it on the side lines of soccer games. “Good job!” “Great work!” “Atta boy!” Yet, as we parent this week, take notice of the opportunities we are given to encourage our children beyond these words of praise. Encouragement seeks to build up a child and help them feel good about themselves. “I noticed the way you spoke big and loud when you asked the waiter for your meal. It must feel good to order for yourself.” Encouragement is specific, genuine, and helps identify for the child the way in which they are being grown. While praise is general, and offered without much need for creativity, encouragement requires attention, reflection, and intention on the part of the parent. The greater effort of encouragement, however, pays off big time in the life of a child. A toddler will risk walking without holding a hand, a child will try the new food on their plate, and a teen will attempt to master a new skill, all with a little, or a lot, of encouragement.
2) Seek forgiveness instead of being sorry. Learning to say “I'm sorry” is, to some, definitively Canadian. Being forgiven, however, is what we find at the heart of learning to live and move in our faith communities. As parents of faith, we should look for the opportunities to model for our children how one seeks forgiveness, rather than politely offering an “I'm sorry.” Those two words are typically offered with more of an intent to seek belated permission rather than authentic restoration.
In our home we try to identify the times in our lives that require forgiveness for making things right. This process involves knowing why we are sorry, directly seeking forgiveness, and offering our hope to move forward in a new way. “Kate, I am sorry I ate your Easter chocolate without asking. Will you forgive me? I will really try not to do it again.” The key to the whole exchange is that it is an exchange. “Can you forgive me?” The question indicates that a response is expected. As they hear the words “I forgive you,” our children learn that restored relationship involves action beyond ourselves. “I'm sorry” is all about "self." Forgiveness involves much more, and ultimately communicates the message of hope and grace at the center of the Gospel.
About the Two Steps series: Pastor Kyla wants to encourage parents with this truth – two steps forward and one step back is still moving forward. Instead of dwelling on the losses, it is helpful to ensure your two steps forward are well paced, sure-footed, and abundantly fruitful. Match this intention with the abundant grace of our God, and parenting is transformed from something we “survive” to the means by which we find ourselves enjoying God's kingdom-life.