So often, it seems like children are disregarded. Pushed away. Ignored. I have seen it so many times, and sometimes even been the one at fault. How can we make sure that we are building up and encouraging the children in our lives? We want to see them grow into successful and happy Christian adults. How do we impact their young lives for the better?
Obviously there are some major problems with the way that some children are being raised. Whether it be in a physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive home, I’m sure we would all say that’s an awful environment that no child should ever have to live in. Yet so often we can forget about the seemingly “smaller” things that we do, maybe even unknowingly, that hurt the lives of the children around us. We really have no idea what kind of impact we may be having on the lives around us. That could be a good thing, if you are doing your best to encourage and build up the people around you, or it could be exactly the opposite.
It seems that often, people forget that their words, actions, and decisions WILL affect the lives around them. Most of us will never know the impact that we have on those around us. Especially the children! I am constantly amazed at the pure joy and innocence that young children have. But then, as the years go on and those same children reach the pre-teen and teen years, so much of that joy and confidence that they had, quickly disappears. As the parents, older siblings, friends, caregivers, and older people, we are left wondering, “What happened?” That sweet innocent child that you once knew is now angry, missing church, and getting in trouble with their parents. You have witnessed the smile slowly fade from their face. They look discouraged and they put themselves down at every chance they get. Any time you try to tell them that they did a good job on something, they act like they don’t believe you. We even hear so many awful comments like, “I hate my life. I’m so ugly. I’m so awful.” Once again, we stand watching and think, “What happened to the young child who was so joyful and full of life? How could they change so much?”
Well, whatever it was that caused this change in their life, it didn’t just happen overnight. It wasn’t just one single incident. One of the biggest problems was that they weren’t built up as young children. They weren’t encouraged. Their lives were most likely filled with negative, hurtful, discouraging words from friends, siblings, and even parents! Negative words just produce more negative words. We can wonder how they could ever speak such awful, discouraging, hurtful things about themselves, but usually, those children are just speaking the same words that others have said to them!
Young children need to be encouraged and built up just as much as everyone else in this world. Actually even more! Think about it, one of your younger brothers comes up to you holding a hammer and a piece of wood with three little nails sticking out of it. “Look! I built a bird house!” What is your response? Of course, you know that it’s not really a bird house, but what do you do? I’m not saying just lie to kids to tell them what they want to hear, but most times it’s just not necessary to tell them every little thing that they’ve done wrong. It’s not necessary to scrutinize every single little thing that they try to do. In this case, there is no need to tell him, “Wow that really looks awful! That’s not a birdhouse at all. Is that really the best you could do?” And then just walk away. How does that leave him feeling? Well, the same way we would be feeling if it was our work that had just been laughed at. I can already see the smile coming off of his adorable little face as he looks down again at his precious little bird house and says, “Oh…. Yeah. It does look pretty bad.” When inside he’s thinking, “But I tried my best! Why didn’t they like it?”
Do you see what just happened? Immediately that child is saddened by the way his little creation was treated. Think of how different the outcome would’ve been if the adult in the situation had actually ACTED like the adult that they were supposed to be. The little boy comes to you with a big smile on his face. “Look! Look at the birdhouse I built all by myself!” Now what happens if instead of criticizing and instead of discouraging, you choose to treat that young child the way he should be treated. He’s looking up to you. Looking for your smile. Looking for your approval. Looking for words of affirmation that he has done a wonderful job. “Wow! You did that all by yourself?” If you have children, younger siblings, or you work with children, I’m sure you know the impact that those words make on a child! His eyes start to sparkle with excitement. “Yes! Yes! I did this all by myself!” By now, that child is probably jumping up and down from excitement. But why shouldn’t we take it a step farther and offer to help them? “You did such a good job! Would you like me to help you build another one? We can build sides and a roof on it so the birds can live inside of it!” At that point, that child is beyond overjoyed. You liked his little birdhouse and you’re even going to help build another one that birds can actually live inside!
See the difference? Our words have such an impact on those little lives. What are little girls doing when they play with their dolls? They aren’t just being silly and goofing off. They are acting like little mommies. They are looking forward to being a mother someday. They change their babies clothes, pretend to feed them, rock them to sleep when they cry, lay them down for nap time, wrap them up in little blankets, and carry them around with them every where they go. Why would we ever say that they are just wasting their time? Why would we laugh at their seriousness? I understand that sometimes it can be quite amusing to see the “little adults” walking around, but why would we ever be purposely mean or treat what they’re doing as stupid?
If a child runs up to show you the picture that they just drew, what is your response? There really is no need at all to look at them and say, “Wow. I really have no idea what that’s supposed to be. In fact, it just looks like scribbles on a page!” (Besides, those aren’t scribbles. That’s amazing abstract art. They could turn out to be an amazing artist and that first little painting could sell for thousands someday! 🙂 ) Once again, I’m not saying just lie to them and flatter them, but be encouraging and do your best to choose your words wisely! If you speak negatively to them, what kind of reaction are you going to get? It definitely won’t help that child in their life! Just imagine them a few years down the road. Is their artwork going to be spectacular because people encouraged them to do their best and keep working hard at it? Or will they just say, “Well, I used to love to draw, but everyone said that my drawings were awful so I stopped. It doesn’t matter. I’m no good at it anyways.”
When we do our best to speak positive, encouraging words to the little ones around us, we are one step closer to impacting their lives for the better! Our words are one of the most important building blocks in building the little ones up. Speak carefully!
For a wonderful blog post related to this subject, check out this post, Nurturing Your Brothers Manhood, by Allison Bontrager. http://www.fromallison.com/nurturing-brothers-manhood/
(Sorry ya’ll. The link editor still isn’t working right.)