Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash
Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Encouraging Your Children

Question

My spouse recently told me that I’m overly negative, critical and discouraging parent.  I know that it’s easier for me to criticize than to compliment.  How can I become a more encouraging parent?

Answer

When I was a little boy I spent many a Saturday morning watching cowboy shows where I remember hearing Roy Rogers sing “Home on the Range.”  Do you remember the words to the chorus that says “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word?”

Unfortunately, many of our homes are places where seldom is heard an ENCOURAGING word.  It’s so easy for tired, weary and stressed-out parents to become negative and critical and only notice what’s wrong or what our child has failed to do.  A lack of encouragement leads to discouragement and depression which is the number one mental health problem of our time.

After over 30 years of being a dad and teaching marriage and family counseling to graduate and post-graduate students I’m convinced that one of the simplest yet most powerful keys to raising healthy children is to cultivate an encouraging environment.

An encouraging environment is one in which our kids know they are of value and worth to God and to us because we tell them.  It’s a place where we catch them being healthy and getting it right.  A place where they hear “Thank You” and where compliments are the rule.

An encouraging environment is one where it is safe for any family member to make mistakes.  In fact it is not only safe but our kids begin to learn that God can actually use our failures to help us grow.  They learn that Romans 8:28 is really true, that God can cause “all things to work together for good.”  They learn that II Corinthians 12: 9-10 is really true.  That with God’s help when we are weak we can be strong.  They learn that one of the best questions to ask after making a mistake is “What can I learn from this?” and not “How can I hide this so I won’t get in trouble?”

How can you begin to create an encouraging environment in your home?  Get out a pad and pencil and write down the names of your kids.  Now ask yourself:  What are their strengths?  What do they do well?  What says love to them?  What makes them laugh?  What gives them joy?  What is it about them that you are thankful for?  What are three good things that they have done in the past week?

For the next seven days set aside a couple of minutes each day to specifically encourage each one of your kids.  At first they may not notice, but after a few days you will discover the power of an encouraging word.

In I Thessalonians 5:11 and Hebrews 3:13 we are exhorted to encourage one another.  In Acts 4:35 we meet a disciple named Joseph from the island of Cyprus but everyone knew him by his nickname Barnabas which means son of encouragement.  If your kids were to give you a nickname what would it be.  I don’t know about you but I’d love to be known by my kids as a “parent” of encouragement.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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