Knock the wind out of their sails. Bursting their bubble. Give the run around. Throw a monkey wrench in. All these idioms really explain well the idea found in Colossians 3:21. God’s instruction is “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” That word discouraged comes from a word with a negative prefix. Thumos is the original word which has the idea of moving, spirit, and impulse. In other words an internal motivation. Discouraged in Colossians is the negative of that word. It is knocking the wind out of your children’s sails. It is bursting their bubble. It is zapping all the life and spirit and want out of your child.
Do you look at your child and wonder what happened? Don’t look to far from yourself. There is a real danger in parenting which is discouraging your children. I recently listened to a sermon by Pastor Michael Edwards about what your children need to hear. The five statements he gave are listed below. Let’s look at what our children need to hear and feel from us so they are not provoked to anger or discouraged.
1. You can do it!
I remember when Luke was a baby we were looking forward to him crawling then walking. People kept saying, “Don’t wish for that yet, then you’ll wish they couldn’t crawl and walk.” What kind of thought is that. It is almost like their development is an inconvenience! Luke was a late walker, but the joy of seeing him do that is hard to surpass. At that point, as a parent, you are cheering for your child. You are so encouraging. When they fall you don’t say, “You lazy kid. Get up and do something!” You encourage them that “They can do it!”
What happens to that spirit of encouragement? Our children don’t receive the same treatment as they get older. Everything they do sort of becomes second-rate to them taking their first steps. The first step in our parenting is to encourage them throughout their life that they can do it. When life is hard, you can do it. When they want to quit or cry, you can do it. When they are about to excel, you can do it. This little phrase goes so far with your children.
2. I’ll help you.
Probably one of my favorite things to watch is DIY shows. “Do it yourself” is a trendy phrase for our American ideal. However, that would be a damaging thing to say to your kids. Obviously there is a stage of independence children go through. You know the time they say things like, “I do it myself.” You always have to balance letting them grow up but at the same time let them know your there. The best way to let your children know that you are on their side, that you are there for them, is to tell them that you’ll help them. Look at your children and the things they face and let them know that you’ll help them.
The biggest investment on your part is the fact that this takes time! Did you hear that. I mean did you really hear that. It might mean less time watching TV or playing with gadgets. Less time doing the things that you want to do to sacrifice time for your children.
3. I’m proud of you!
My mom still tells a story from my childhood. When I was just a little tyke, they were teaching me how to blow my nose. We were in a restaurant and I noticed the pretty, leafy garnish on my plate. I decided to put my training into action and blew my nose on a lettuce leaf. That would not be one of the “proud of you” moments.
Sometimes with our children we focus on the funny and not so funny embarrassing moments. When was the last time you looked at your child and said you were proud of them?
4. No, you may not.
This is sometimes the hardest thing to say, but we have to remember what our responsibility is as parent. We just talked about this in our parent Sunday school session. Another word for discipline is realignment. You take your car in for discipline or realignment. Why do our children need alignment? Whenever anyone does wrong we move outside of God’s promised protection. When our children do wrong we are God’s agent in their life to realign them to God’s will.
Sometimes we can avoid fixing problems by preventing them at the beginning. Instead of realigning we could think of this as restraining. I began to think about this idea of restraining. What would be the biggest help to me in the restraining process? Learning to tell myself no, you may not. If we as parents are weak in telling ourselves no, you may not, then why would we think that our children would respect us telling them the same thing.
5. I love you.
This isn’t just a trite whimsical statement. This is a purposeful and planned expression. Find ways or reasons to tell them that you love them. If they are younger and they were well-behaved one weekend, then pull them aside and tell them that you love them and you thought they did a great job. If they competed in a sport or performed in an art, stop and tell them you love them. Many times there isn’t any reason necessary. Just say, “I love you.”
Don’t discourage your children. Parent, step up to the challenge of these five statements. There are probably other fine things to say to your children, but this would definitely start you in the right direction.