Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Leaving a Legacy for Your Children

Question

I grew up in a negative home where it seems like nothing I ever did was quite good enough.  Love was expressed in the form of criticism and it’s impacted who I am as a person and a parent.  What can I do to make sure I don’t leave that legacy for my kids?

 Answer

If someone were to give you a nickname that characterizes your temperament or some outstanding aspect of your personality what would it be?  Sunshine?  Grumpy?  Happy?

In Acts 4:36 we’re introduced to Joseph, who was born in Cyprus, but whose nickname was Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement.  How’s that for a great nickname?

The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of encouragement.  In I Thessalonians 5:11 we’re told to “encourage one another and build each other up . . . “  In Hebrews 3:13 we’re exhorted to “encourage each other daily . . . so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.”  Somehow being men and women of encouragement helps protect us against having hardened hearts.

What is an encouraging environment and why is it important?  An encouraging environment is a place where our kids feel valued—where we spend more time building and encouraging them then scolding and correcting them, where they are treated with honor and respect, where we identify and call out their uniqueness so that, consistent with Proverbs 22:6, we can train them up in the way they should go—consistent with the unique way that God has made them.

A encouraging environment is one where parents spend more time catching their children doing something right than wrong—where they invest more energy in praising them for being successful than criticizing them for falling short.

An encouraging environment is one in which parents respond (rather than react) to their children’s pleasant as well as painful emotions.  Without intending to, many parents tend to react to their children’s out-of-control emotions.  This teaches our kids that the best way to get attention is to create a crisis.

An encouraging environment is one in which it is safe to make mistakes.  In fact, our kids learn that it’s not only safe, but that God can actually use their mistakes and failures to help them learn and grow.  This kind of environment put’s Romans 8:28 and II Corinthians 12:9-10 into real life.  We help our kids learn to respond to mistakes by asking, “What can I learn from this experience?” and “How can I do it better next time?”

If your kids were to give you a nickname what do you think it would be? 

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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