I have a hint for all parents out there. You see this summer I heard a secret to success that I just cannot hold on to. It needs to be shared. Not just one teenager, but many (and I mean many) confided in me that they needed to hear affirmations from their parents. Okay, so they didn’t use the word affirmation, but that is what they described to me.
They felt unloved. They felt like they were constantly letting their parents down. They felt tremendous guilt because of choices they had made. They felt like they couldn’t live up to their parents’ expectations.
So, as I heard this same thing over and over. I realized – I am not doing this at home. I had missed the boat. Somehow this secret to parenting had not been shared with me. It hit me all at once – I was not affirming my own kids. During some much needed time in prayer, I realized that this information was not just for me, but for you.
Just what is an affirmation? Affirmation by definition is emotional support or encouragement. Keep that in mind as I give you a few examples.
As I began to spread this wealth of knowledge that I acquired I noticed several parents would say things like this…
- “I tell my kids all the time I love them.”
- “I constantly am hugging and loving on my kids.”
- “I make sure before my kids leave to go anywhere that I tell them I love them and to be safe.”
- “Our family makes a point of having dinner every night together.”
Don’t get me wrong, these are all great things, but they aren’t enough.
Your teens want to be affirmed. Just saying, “I love you” is not enough.
They want to know why you love them. They want to know when they do things right. They want to know what their boundaries are. They want to know the difference between them and their siblings. They want to understand and see that their uniqueness (the one that God gave them) is being seen by others. It makes them feel appreciated and loved.
This is what affirmation looks like:
- Let’s say your daughter just went out with some friends. During the evening she decides that she doesn’t like their choices, so she returns home. The next morning (not necessarily that night) you talk with her about this. To affirm her behavior you say something like this: “Debbie, I am so proud of your choice to return home last night. That had to be extremely difficult for you to leave your friends. I want you to know that your behavior shows me how strong, courageous and humble you are. Those are traits that will come in extremely handy some day; not to mention last night. Those traits are gifts from God and you showed him last night how much you love him by utilizing them. Never doubt your decision to stand strong in your faith. I am amazed by you.”
- Let’s say your son just finished his best or worst game of the season. You are either melting with pride for him or sick with sorrow. To affirm his behavior you should say something like this: “John, I cannot tell you how proud I am of what you did tonight. Sometimes God calls us to win and sometimes God calls us to lose. Never doubt the strength you have when persevering to do God’s work. Even on a sports team you can show your faith. I saw you encouraging your teammates, playing your best and congratulating the winning team. Those are gifts that God gave you, and I am beaming with pride that you used them tonight. God works through us all the time and he worked through you tonight – win or lose. When I see you shine with God’s Glory like you did tonight, it makes me smile with happiness. You are very special.
These example of affirmations encourage our children to continue to use God’s unique gifts that they were given. It gives our children encouragement and strength to persevere through the trials of life. It reaffirms to them that this is how you handle a struggle. They need to hear this.
I promised God after my summer was over that I would share the beauty of affirmations to as many people as I could. It is so important to the success of our children. Trust me it won’t be easy. It won’t come naturally. Your kids will squirm when you affirm them, but secretly they will smile with happiness that their parents understand and see their accomplishments. It will make them proud that their parents really get their struggles. Ultimately, it will reinforce their faith life to make them stronger adults some day.
Psalm 119:130 The explanation of your teachings gives light and brings wisdom to the ignorant.