Spoiler alert: I’m not very good at this.
I’m am not a natural encourager.
It is not my spiritual gift, if you want to put it that way.
I have an analytical mind, which delights in ruminating on all things, actions, words, ideas, jokes, dreams, songs, pictures, movies, turns of phrases. Everything! You pick something I will sit for minutes, hours, days thinking over it, dissecting it, pulling it apart, rearranging it, finding different possible meanings or intentions or directions or… Well, you see what I mean.
But, God calls me to love my family sacrificially, to “consider others as more important than myself” to paraphrase Philippians 2:3, to get out of my head and my thoughts and put love into action.
Encouragement is, I think, the most basic way to “put on love”, as Colossians 3:14 commands us to do.
My ‘three steps’ for how to encourage your children, or really anyone in your life.
1. Get to know them
The first step in how to encourage anyone, but especially our children, is to get to know them. Each child is different, in case you haven’t noticed, so each one will be encouraged differently.
My son loves a quick hug and a sentence saying how much I love him. A simple “I know you can do this” when he’s frustrated is just what his little heart needs to hear.
My middle child on the other hand would dig in her stubborn heels and let loose the sass machine if I said “I know you can do this”. I’ve tried. Her response was: “I know I can’t!”
For her, I have to do something different, because she is different from her brother.
Get to know your child. What helps, what doesn’t, what haven’t you tried yet. And remember, they are not just different from each other, but also your children are different from you! What would never in a million years be something you would like, may bring joy to their souls.
2. It will be inconvenient, so be patient.
This is less of a step and more of a reminder for you.
These moments when your child needs you rarely come when you are ready for them.
Before launching into fixing your kid’s problem, take a deep breath, calm yourself (and the situation if necessary), and set your heart in an attitude of patience. Because the whole point of encouraging your children is to love them. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4), not ‘love is busy’.
3. Repeat the encouragement. Say it again. Today, tomorrow, in a week, in a month…
Point made, yet?
Seriously though, keep encouraging your child! Don’t just do it once and check off the box. That’s not how it works. It’s certainly not how it works for you, is it?
Remember, we as Christians are modeling Christ, God himself, to our children (and to the world!).
God repeats himself a lot. A major theme in the bible is how incredibly forgetful we humans are, and how often God is reminding us, his people of who he is and what he’s done. Your children are humans too! They forget, and just like they need repeated instructions to clean up the Legos all over the floor for the eightieth time, they will need repeated encouragement and love from you, too.
“I know you can do this.”
“I love you, even when…”
“Here, let’s do this together.”
“I understand, sometimes I feel that way, too.”
“I hear you, thank you for telling me!”
“I love watching you play, can I play too?”
“Big hug and kiss?”
Go encourage your children today. (Or whoever you happen to be around today, tomorrow, any day of your life: your spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, coworker, neighbor, friend, etc.)
“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3)
Soli Deo Gloria!