A Little Water, a Little Sunshine

My oldest son just turned seven at the end of January. Although I know the sentimentalist’s chorus, “They grow up too fast; let them be little children,” a great part of me is still looking forward to those milestones he reaches as he grows into maturity. After all, that’s what a parent and leader is all about – bringing about the success of those who are under his hand. For my children, that means that I’ve been a successful daddy if my boys grow up to love and trust God and love and serve people (especially God’s people). I’m not in a rush to skip through his childhood, but I want to be his biggest cheerleader as he grows up!

I’ve found that my kids thrive in an environment of praise. I’m not talking about the everybody-gets-a-trophy-for-every-little-thing culture, but I’m talking about giving him a serious “I’m very proud of you, son” talking-to. We’re talking about providing the water and sunshine they need to grow into the strong, hearty – and healthy – people.

When he hears these words his eyes light up, he sits up a little straighter; he smiles and feels like growing-up is something he can do, rather than dreading the impending changes that come with growth. There’s, of course, a balance to be struck between encouragement and correction, but that balance is not 1-to-1. I’ve been to too many funerals where families assured the deceased’s children, “You know he really was proud of you,” and the children have to reply, “Yes, but he never said it.”  This is heartbreaking and disappointing. I’m convinced that critical, hard words of disappointment have greater weight and when we put them on the scale with words of praise, love, and affirmation it takes very few of them to tip the scales into an unhealthy balance. Social scientists think they have identified a minimum of 5-to-1, praise-to-criticism.

Friends, it’s not a morally-superior or stronger person who reserves praise so stoically that even our own families never hear it cross our lips. The Bible tells us to, “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thess. 5:11). Be the water and sunshine in your kids’ lives – build them up, don’t tear them down!

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Ephesians 6:4