Are You Your Child’s Cheerleader?

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

Proverbs 18:21 

Last night, I finished reading Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley. I will definitely be adding this book to my list of recommended reads for Christian parents. There was far too much good stuff in it for me to absorb with only one reading, so I’ve already made plans to come back to it again in the future. 

Knowing my own sinful tendency toward negativity, I found the following instruction on the importance of encouraging children to be especially helpful…

Most parents find it easy to see their children’s faults, but hard to see their virtues. Why is this? If you ask a parent to list a child’s faults, the list will come quickly. But if you ask the parent to identify evidences of God’s grace in that child, the list will often come slowly after hard thought, if at all. Why?

One reason is that we think much about our children’s faults and little about their virtues. This is especially true for difficult children. But the difficult child is usually the one who most needs our affirmation. A friend asked a mother for the first thing she thought of when a particular child came to mind. She told me that only negative words came to mind, and it disturbed her.

A second reason it is difficult to evidence grace is that we take God’s grace for granted. We have not learned to be thankful for our children, despite their problems. We think we deserve better. We are ungrateful. A lack of gratitude always points to pride. It says, “I deserve good from God’s hand.” The gospel speaks a different message. We deserve crucifixion. We don’t deserve obedient, easy children.

Words of affirmation are powerful. The Bible stresses the awesome power of the tongue. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (Prov. 10:11). Appropriate words encourage, impart love, inspire and charge our children with confidence to face tomorrow. This is especially true when we verbally identify where God is working in their lives.

Behind almost every child’s weakness is a corresponding strength. After you have disciplined the weakness, take a moment to identify the strength. The child who is fearful and sensitive might also be good at making friends. The child who is defiant and strong willed is probably good at resisting peer pressure. The child who talks too much might have potential to be a good teacher. Learn to verbally and repeatedly identify grace in your children’s lives.

What are we more aware of, their failings or God’s grace? Parents deeply aware of their own sin are very sensitive to God’s grace in others. Despite their children’s shortcomings, they are grateful, and they express that gratitude repeatedly. But proud, self-righteous parents are slow to see God’s grace at work in their children. They are demanding. They are not grateful. Nothing done by their children is good enough.

[Gospel-Powered Parenting, pp. 212-214]

Photo: AD-Passion

4 thoughts on “Are You Your Child’s Cheerleader?

  1. Hmmmm. Were you spying on my thoughts at 6:30 this morning? I was grumbling that Miriam is the most disobedience, etc, etc child I have ever dealt with. I frequently ask John Ross where on earth we got a child like this and apologize to Simeon that he will have to grow up with her as a big sister. Doesn’t paint a very positive picture of her. Thank you for reminding me to count her among my blessings! If we can bend her in the right way, she will be mightly for the Lord.

    • I’m glad that the post was an encouragement to you, Cara, and I appreciate your willingness to take what you hear and put it into practice. I know the Lord will honor your continual efforts to raise all of your children for His glory!

  2. Cara… I would caution you about EVER pitting one child against another (per your comment “[I] apologize to Simeon that he will have to grow up with her as a big sister”). I don’t mean to sound harsh or critical, and I trust you take my comments both with a grain of salt as well as the love I truly have for other parents with strong-willed children! :) Regardless of the age of your children, how devastating for your daughter to hear her mother apologize for her to her brother! I gently caution you about the power of your words in her little heart. I am frequently reminded as I remind my strong-willed daughter that “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” May the Lord bless you as you nurture this powerhouse for His glory! Look to the end: she has the potential to turn the world upside down for Jesus Christ!

  3. I think Missy knows me well enough to know that I would never say anything negative about Miriam in her presence. Her baby brother is 7 mos old and her misbehavior is frequently a bad example to him. That is all I meant by my comment although I can see how a stranger would take it wrong. I have more wisdom than that…

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