‘Affirm’ as defined by Merriam Webster:
– to say that something is true in a confident way
: to show a strong belief in or dedication to (something, such as an important idea)
Let’s flesh that out as it relates to parenting our kids. What can we affirm? Certainly, we can affirm their positive behaviors or achievements. Typically, this is the first to come to mind. In his book ‘Loving Obedience‘, Dr. Bill Richardson proposes several other areas to affirm, including a child’s contributions, improvements, efforts, and assets.
We’ll look at each in turn:
Affirm Achievements – It seems that our social and academic structures are built on achievement. From promotions to awards, we put high acclaim on success. For instance, my children are elementary aged and participate in AR, a program designed to encourage reading by granting points and awards to successful completion of books. It’s a great thing to reward the achievements which come by hard work. My kids will one day be adults who work in some sort of business that inherently rewards successful work. There are a thousand and one ways to affirm achievements – from tokens, prizes, words, notes, privileges, to a multitude of other and more creative ways.
Affirm Contributions – What does your child add to your family? All the way from humor to structure, activity to peace, silliness to washing dishes, everyone contributes positively in one way or another. Take time to think through what your family would be like if your child went on a three month vacation. What would you miss? After you figure it out, let your kid know through words of mouth, emails, notes, or texts.
Affirm Improvements – Many of us carry around a thought that ‘it’s never good enough’, and by ‘it’ we mean ‘I am never good enough’. Often with our kids we fear that by acknowledging their improvements we will only be motivating them towards complacency. To put that fear to rest let me ask one question: When was the last time you were affirmed for an improvement in your job and you took it to mean that you should check out and start upping your time on candy crush while at work? Right, never. By acknowledging and affirming their improvements in behavior, school, chores, etc. you let your child know that they are on the right track, and in turn give them the motivation to stay on the right track.
Affirm Efforts – It’s of the utmost importance to affirm a child’s effort in addition to affirming their accomplishments, particularly because success will not always come. Your children, like me and you, will fail at times, whether it be in school, on projects, in groups, with friends, or on the stage or field. In order to know it’s okay to move on after failure it’s integral that they know their efforts have worth in their own right. Let them know you see the work and energy they put into what they’re doing.
Affirm Assets – I absolutely love this particular affirmation. To affirm assets is to affirm that which is naturally in your child, the stuff they were born with, the stuff God knitted into the fabric of their being. They didn’t earn it or work for it. They didn’t put effort into it or have to improve it. It is simply just them, the stuff that makes them who they are. This could be their physical attributes (eye color, body type, shoe size, etc), their emotional self (sensitive, strong, empathetic, kind, personable, etc), their personality (introvert, extrovert, thinker, feeler, humorous, serious, etc), their mentality (hard working, go with the flow, people person) or any host of assets. Pay attention! Your child is uniquely made.
As you affirm, you help your child develop their sense of self. As you affirm in truth, those things which are inherent within them will flourish and grow into healthy and confident adulthood. However, if you affirm falsely with insults, put-downs, name calling, criticism or contempt, they will just as likely take to heart what you are saying- integrating your false words into their identity.
Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose. Proverbs 18:20-21 (MSG)
Here are just a few ways to express affirmations to your children:
-Write an affirmation on a sticky note and place it somewhere they’ll run into (the mirror, their computer, their closet)
-Send a text (especially when you know they shouldn’t actually be receiving texts)
-Private message rather than writing on their wall or homepage – be sensitive to embarrassing them on their turf.
-Buy some colored index cards and stick one affirmation in their lunch, bag, wallet, etc., everyday until you run out of cards.
-Use a dry erase marker on their bathroom mirror
-If they’re too young to read, draw a picture of them
-Tell them at night as a recap of the day
-Have fun with it. Put notes in the unlikeliest of places.
To recap, using words affirm to your child who you see them to be, how you see them growing, when you see them improving, and what you see as their character. In so doing, you are giving them the gift of knowing their God-given identity.
-By Branden Henry