“As we reward our children for growing in good deeds, we want them to see that God gets all the glory”.

Sara Wallace, For the Love of Discipline

Recently, I observed a mother acknowledging her young child’s efforts with a tone that was kind and affirming.

Not long after, I was talking with a woman who works with young children in a school setting. She informed me they are told to affirm the children x many times every hour. She gave the example, “I like the way you are sitting in that chair.”

These two interactions have popped into my head several times over the last couple months (especially when I am disciplining in a less than gracious manner), and I found myself laying awake one night trying my best to sort them out. Why is affirmation such a valuable part of what we give to our children and how do we find the proper balance between affirmation and pride?

Maybe I have given this more thought than usual because my own  “Love Language” is Words of Affirmation. Perhaps it is because, as a home educating mother of five boys, my day is filled with discipline, correction, refereeing, and looking for ways to affirm for an inordinate portion of each and every day.

I believe our jobs as homeschoolers and mothers can be boiled down to one basic task: We give our children the Law and the Gospel, All. Day. Long. If your children are anything like mine, it’s safe to say you, too, deal with little sinners All. Day. Long. So all too often I end the day feeling the heaviness of the Law. I feel as though I have “preached” it all day, only to end the day looking into a mirror at a mother with a “plank” in her own eye.

Do my children need to be affirmed more, I ask myself? Perhaps. But, more than likely what they need more of is Grace.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with begin affirmed. Although this particular sin is not new, social media has contributed to this obsession.  We need “friends,” “likes,” “comments,” and “followers” to feel affirmed in ourselves. Our children are growing up in this new world of social media.  Do I worry that the little toddler who looked for affirmation from his mother will grow up to be a teenager who finds self worth in “likes”? Whenever we look for affirmation in ourselves, we are going to be found wanting. If we teach our children to look for affirmation in what they do, they will chase ghosts all their lives.

We need to build our children’s self worth on something stronger then their own sinful nature. We need to remind them that they are a child of God. And this is a gift, not something that can be earned. This is something that does not come naturally to us. We, like our children, like to be affirmed for what WE have done. And as loving Christian mothers, we can and should give and receive affirmation. But always remember where your true worth lies. You are a redeemed child of a God. That God gave to you and your children the humble manger, the wooden cross, and the empty tomb.

It is good to give a child praise when they do well and to encourage their hard work, good manners, and self-control. (Believe me, around here a boy sitting nicely in a chair is definitely noticed.) But the best affirmation and reassurance that you will ever give them is the reminder that they are a child of God, baptized and forgiven through the blood of Christ.

Let us give our children much Grace. Let us be patient, kind, and loving. Let us affirm them for the individual they are and be humble in acknowledging their strengths. And at the end of the day, when we look in the mirror and remember all the ways we failed our children, let us lay down and rest in God’s never ending Grace for us as well.

“Instead of the reward saying, ‘Yay; look what you did!’ it says, ‘Yay; look what God is doing in your heart!’”

Sara Wallace, For the Love of Discipline

Maggie Faugstad is married to Joe Faugstad and homeschools their five boys. They live in Faribault, Minnesota. Her days are filled with joy and chaos, and she is humbled and grateful for the vocation God has given her. 

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