When my first child, Luke, was born, his father and I would look at him, and in all sincerity we would say, "He's perfect." And he was. Our little 5 lb. 11 oz. bundle of joy had yet to speak a harsh word or misbehave. We cheered at his first smile. We even said "good boy" when he burped. (How things have changed!) We were continually affirming him and encouraging him in his development.
So many things can change from infancy to puberty. How can you continue to be your child's number one fan through each stage of his development? I was a cheerleader in college, and one thing that our sponsor emphasized to our cheerleading squad was to never stop cheering on the team. Whether they were winning or losing, we were to root for them at all times. When the team was lagging behind on the score board, we still cheered them on. We can wisely adopt this same philosophy and thereby give our children a lasting legacy of self-confidence and personal strength.
As our children begin to grow beyond the potty training stage and lose their baby fat, they still need our parental affirmation. They need to be affirmed in their character development and when they behave responsibly. Ultimately we must communicate to them their eternal value. They are valuable because they are God's creation, not because of what they may or may not achieve. They need to be reminded that we don't love them more when they make straight A's on their report cards or have a winning soccer game. And we don't love them less when they disappoint us or disobey. Yes, we deal with their disobedience and mistakes firmly because our relationship can never be what it was meant to be if there is a lack of obedience or honor.
In communicating this important truth of the priceless worth of our children to us, we emulate the perfect parent, God.
Scripture tells us He loved us when we didn't deserve it. He loves us not because of what we do or who we are. He is totally unselfish in his love. He truly wants a personal and intimate relationship with us.
There are two ways God chose to communicate his love for us: His words and His actions. The Bible is God's personal communication to us using language. We can learn all about Him by His written word to us. Secondly, He conveyed His love by sending His Son Jesus Christ to this earth to live and die to redeem us and save us from sin and eternal death. In the same way we can communicate love to our children through our words and actions.
Words are powerful tools we have at our disposal. Did you know it takes four positive comments to counteract one negative one? We should continually be on the look out for ways to deposit positive words and deeds into the lives of our children. Such a deposit is free, yet it will birth lasting dividends in the hearts of our kids. Words of encouragement as your child leaves for school in the morning or complimenting him for making his bed each day are simple ways to affirm him. Anyone will respond naturally to someone who builds him up and compliments him. If we keep our eyes open we will see opportunities to point out the good we see each day in our children.
It seems so natural to kiss the soft cheek of a newborn. Moreover, studies show affection is as necessary to the newborn as his food. Without love and affection, the child will not grow and develop normally. Just as an infant never outgrows his need for food, neither does he outgrow his need for affection. As our children change and grow, it may seem that they no longer need the affection they once craved. But that isn't true. In fact, there might be fewer teenagers tempted into premarital sex if there was more parental affection at home. I never want my children to have a basis for feeling unloved.
With my 4 foot 10 inch frame I am no longer able to hold my 13-year-old son on my lap, but I look for other ways to show him affection. I know he will never outgrow his need for physical touch, so I look for ways to be affectionate with him. When we watch a family movie together, I may sit close to him or he may put his head in my lap. I sit on his bedside at night and chat with him about whatever is on his mind. I place my hand on his shoulder when I see him doing his school work. I think his favorite display of parental affection is when his father wrestles with him on the living room floor. Showing affection sends a tangible message. Physical touch says, "You matter to me. I think you are special and worth my time and attention."
Some things will change as a child matures while others will not. Positive words and touch are two unchanging needs our children will always have. As we weave positive words and affection throughout all aspects of parenting, the result will be a beautiful tapestry displayed in the hearts of our children.