My six–year–old son is a “words of affirmation” kind of guy. When I praise him for a job well done, or point out what I like about his behavior in a particular situation, he sits up a little taller, his eyes take on a little extra sparkle and he makes this cute little side smile as he nonchalantly says, “Thanks.”
That kid certainly doesn’t have to go out of his way for me to notice ALL that is good and wonderful about him. Neither does his little brother, for that matter. I am so blessed to have a couple of really great kids. My three–year–old is a “physical touch” kind of guy and will take a hug and kiss all day long, but words of affirmation don’t land on him the way they do his big brother. If I give Little Bro a compliment, he receives it like, “Yeah, I already know that.” It’s not that he has more confidence than Big Bro, it’s just that they give and receive love in different ways.
Words of affirmation aren’t that hard for me to give, but I admit, they’re not my natural tendency. I’m an act of service kind of love producer. Mushy, sentimental words, are so overwhelmingly powerful for me that I sometimes have a hard time getting them out of my mouth without choking up.
I’ve been learning different ways of affirming my children and why it is so important to do so. Speaking the truth of who these babies are over them is a very powerful practice. In doing so I am showering them in praise and building up their self-worth. Think about the words you hear people say to you. Isn’t it nicer to hear all the things we do right rather than all the things we do wrong? I can tell you that I tell myself enough of the wrong things, but am constantly working on turning off that inner voice so that the inner voice that speaks the good things, the truthful things can come through loud and clear. It breaks my heart to think that my precious babies could ever have a negative self-narrative. Which is why I want to fill them up with as much sweet truth as possible.
Trust me, my kiddos are full of mischief and we have had our fair share of not following directions and opportunities to discipline. But as Mr. Words of Affirmation has gotten older and the more often I praise his goodness, the more likely he is to follow the directions I give, or the expectations I set forth. For example, at the grocery store, I’ll be quick to point out how great of a job he’s doing pushing the cart through the store and not banging into the shelves or the other shoppers. It’s like as if by simply acknowledging what he’s doing well, he wants to continue that excellent work.
Some other ways I speak affirming words to my boys is to write notes for them and leave them in their lunchboxes. I’ll say something like, “Hey, Bud, you are such a good friend to the other kids in your class. I love how helpful, patient and kind you are.” Now that my oldest can read, it really makes a big impact!
When I catch one brother being thoughtful, helpful, or kind to the other brother, I call it out and ask how it made him feel to be so well treated by his brother.
Getting the boys in on decision making also builds confidence and instills in them that they are valued members of our family. This can be anything from what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner to what we do together for fun.
When my kiddos make a good decision, I like to make a big deal about it.
Rewarding a good effort, hard work, and accomplishments with a special treat or a little token is also a great way to affirm them.
But nothing beats them hearing just how much their mom and dad love them and for so many reasons and in so many ways. Like I mentioned before, sometimes the words get caught underneath a lump in my throat, so I need a little extra help. A friend recently gifted me a deck of cards with words of affirmations written on them. They’re called UpCards and each card has a sweet little affirmation written on it along with original, hand illustrated artwork done in a pretty watercolor. They say things as simple as “You are a winner” to “You are filled with infinite possibilities.” I love reading a statement from a card and then explaining to them how that applies to them. Sometimes that message is one I also need to hear in a particular moment to be reminded of my own greatness.
No matter what love language a child speaks, genuine affirmation is not just an essential ingredient in child development, but it helps the child see themselves the way God sees them and the way every parent sees their child – like a beloved treasure.
You can read more about the 5 Love Languages and how they pertain to children, teens, and adults by reading these books by Gary Chapman.
You can find UpCards on Amazon here.
I would love to know ways other mamas affirm their children. Please share with us in the comments section below.