The word encourage in Webster’s Dictionary is defined as to inspire with courage or confidence; to promote, foster.
So, how can we, as parents, encourage our children? Below are seven suggestions…
1. Encourage their character. “A person’s character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions.” (quote taken fromhttp://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-character.html).
As parents, are we helping our children to develop good character? Are we encouraging them to make good choices? Our kids will be, and are faced, with multiple decisions each day. Helping them to understand why good choices are important and equipping them with the knowledge and practice to make good choices is paramount.
One of the things we do in our home is to discuss with our children what they would do if faced with a particularly difficult situation. What would they do if they were asked to do something they knew was wrong? I heard someone say long ago that what we do when no one is watching is a sign of our integrity. My prayer is that my children will have that kind of integrity.
2. Encourage their dreams. I love the dreams of little children! My youngest asked for a pet mongoose not long ago. I could have easily told her that there was no way we could have a mongoose and for her to be more practical. However, I chose not to. Instead, I encouraged her dream and we chatted about how fun it would be to actually have a pet mongoose (especially since they eat snakes!), and the tricks we would teach him.
Encourage your children to dream at every age and every stage of their lives.
3. Encourage their future. I pray regularly for our children’s futures, both during family prayer time and during my own quiet times with the Lord. I have told my children that it’s exciting to see what God has planned for their lives. We often discuss Jeremiah 29:11 which says: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)
4. Encourage their compassion. Compassion is one of the most important things we can teach our children. One thing we have done is to instill in our children the importance of serving others. For some ideas on how to instill compassion in your children, please see my post http://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/how-to-instill-compassion-and-servanthood-in-your-children/ or my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.
Not only should we encourage compassion for others outside the home, but we should especially encourage compassion within our own families. One of the ways that we do this is to regularly pray for each other and to express our prayer needs daily to one another.
5. Encourage their imagination. As a writer, I am grateful that the Lord blessed me with a creative imagination. There are several ways I have encouraged my children’s imaginations. For one, I have always read to them. Reading is so important and can take us on adventures we would never otherwise take. When my children were old enough to begin reading themselves, I encouraged them to check out as many books as they wanted at the local library and to even have a “reading marathon” over the summer months. Reading is excellent for the imagination!
Several times, we have spread a blanket in the backyard and gazed up at the clouds. We take turns imagining what animals the clouds look like and which could we would choose if we could lounge on any cloud. The white puffy clouds always win!
My oldest daughter has a knack for art. As such, I asked if she would illustrate a story I wrote. She was delighted and it was wonderful to see her own imagination shining through in her art. I combined the story and her illustrations and asked the local office supply store to bound the pages together. We now have our own special book – not only a keepsake, but also a delightful practice in encouraging the imagination of a budding artist!
6. Encourage their friendships. We talk often about friendships in our home and about the kind of friendships that are important. The Bible has much to say about friendships and what type of friends to choose. For example, Proverbs 16:28 talks of why being dishonest and being one who gossips separates close friends. Proverbs 18:24 states the importance of a friend who sticks closer than a brother (ESV). John 15:13 is a profound statement of friendship: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
In our home, we have talked frequently about three different types of friends: gold friends who are there for you through the good times and bad; silver friends who are fun to be with, but you can’t always count on them; and bronze friends who are more like an acquaintance because they aren’t “true” friends.
Encourage your children to be the kind of friend that would honor God.
7. Most importantly, encourage their walk with God.
Are you children growing in their walk with the Lord? Have they accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior? The most important thing we can do is encourage our children to have a close relationship with Jesus. After all, that’s the only thing that will last for eternity.