By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
The world tells our children who they are and who they are not--in a hurry.
It begins as early as the playground, the track team, the classroom, and nights out with friends. It macerates harder with social media and of course, there’s television and magazines too. They become teens and then adults who struggle to know their worth, their value.
They often wonder if they are enough and struggle to fight the lies they’re being fed.
But what if we, as their parents, had the power to change that? What if we had the power to raise faith-filled kids who know their worth? What if we became intentional about building our children up in truth, about reminding them of their true identity?
What if we became deliberate about helping our children know their worth?
We can. We are the parents, mothers and fathers that were created specifically in mind when God gave us our children. We know them inside and out. We know how funny, brilliant, and wonderful they are.
And the more intentional we are about instilling their sense of self-worth, the better it will go for them when they are adults.
Many of us have to work so hard to undo negative views of ourselves because of our upbringing. We pour over self-help books, go to therapy, constantly work at breaking old habits and learning new good ones that reflect our true value instead of what we believed growing up.
Let’s make this job easier on our kids by using godly principles. Here are six practices to help children know their worth.
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1. Speak Life
Our words build a universe around our kids. We have the ability to shape, build, and describe who they are, so we need to speak life into our children. When we look in the Bible, we can see the power of words.
In the very first chapter, God said, “Let there be light,” and the first dawn was created. Jesus brought the dead to life with his words and healed others. And it doesn't stop there, our lives revolve around the power of words too, for example, the words, “I do” join two people together for the rest of their lives.
Paul tells us to “Let everything [we] say be good and helpful, so that [our] words will be an encouragement to all who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29).
Our words need to lift them up instead of adding to the rest of the world's voices.
Why? Because a parent’s words are powerful. Whoever told us “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” lied. Words are powerful.
Often, they are more powerful that we even realize. If we want to grow our children in the healthiest atmosphere possible, we must recognize the power of our words and take responsibility for each and every one.
We need to speak life intentionally over our children the way God has spoken life over us. Here are a few references to speak God’s Truth over your kids.
2. Speak Truth, God’s Truth
The Bible is absolutely full of amazing truths about how God made us and loves us. Tell your children these truths often. Post them all over your house, write them in notes for their lunches, or make them a part of their bedtime routine.
You are worth dying for. (Romans 5:8)
You are uniquely gifted. (1 Corinthians 12:1-31)
You can do all things with Christ’s strength. (Philippians 4:13)
You can do hard things. (Romans 8:37)
You have a purpose. (1 Peter 2:9)
Your body is perfectly made (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
You are never alone. Psalm 139: 9-10
You are seen, known, protected and called by name. (Isaiah 43:1-2)
You are a citizen of heaven; this world is not your home (Philippians 3:20).
You are never in the dark. God’s Word will help you find your way in dark times (Psalm 119:105).
You are forever loved. (Jeremiah 31:3)
As a mother, I want my words to be life and hope. I long to speak truth over my children, to grow their gifts and encourage their strengths, but it doesn’t happen when I’m simply calling out their weaknesses.
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3. Turn Negative Labels into Positive Affirmations
It slips off our tongue before we realize what we’ve done. We labeled our kids and it can potentially degrade their self-worth.
What we say becomes our child’s inner voice and it can become a part of their identity. We’ve all heard how we should phrase negative behavior as situational and not as a characteristic quality. The same idea applies here, so we reframe our statements.
Reframing is one of the most powerful tools a parent can have in their verbal arsenal. Putting a positive twist on a seemingly negative behavior can literally change everything.
Once you can identify the positive affirmation to your child’s difficult traits, then you are able to help her gain control, grow, and become who Christ created her to be. For example, instead of saying your child is bossy, consider stating your child is a leader.
Here is a cheat sheet of turning difficult traits into positive ones.
Negative Labels Positive Affirmations
Bossy A Leader / Authoritative
Sensitive Tuned in to emotions
4. Remind Them It’s Okay to Fail
None of us like getting knocked down. None of us like skinned knees or feeling inadequate; but that is a part of growing, changing, and becoming a better version of ourselves. Only through trial and error can children become resilient adults.
Yet, it can be so tough to watch your child fail but James 1:2-8 reminds us we will go through trials in order to produce faith, steadfastness, and a resilient soul. Not learning to fail is actually a detriment to our kids. It creates anxiety instead of resilience whether that’s in preschool or college.
When you or your child fails, use these moments as teaching moments. A child’s failure is a chance for parents to teach acceptance and problem-solving skills.
Help your child find the “next time you can” in her mistakes. For example, you could say, “Yep, you spilled the juice. Next time you’re pouring the juice, you can hold your glass over the sink.” You and your child can try to come up with what she could do the next time for a better chance at success.
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5. Be Present and Play with Your Kids
It’s hard to feel good about yourself when your friend is engrossed with their phones when they’re supposed to be an active listener in the conversation. The same goes for our kids. When we get sucked into the virtual vortex, we are saying:
“I’d rather be distracted then pay attention to you.”
“It’s okay to let a little rectangle run my life.”
“Alerts take precedence over you.”
Kids who see their parents looking down at their phones instead of at them think you don’t care about them. An opportunity to connect with your kid is gone, and the lesson your kid has learned is that you’d rather immerse yourself online. By keeping our heads down and shutting ourselves off from our kids, we are modeling behavior that they will follow when they have devices of their own.
Let’s build up children who will build up their own children one day. Let’s be present, be an active listener, and put the distractions away. Show them they are worth your time and you care what they think, their emotions, interests and more.
Making children feel seen, makes them feel important and that feeling of being a priority is a big factor to knowing their worth!
6. Develop Healthy Self-Care Habits
Even though your child may be four, twelve or fourteen, we need to parent with the end result in mind—we’re raising future adults who need to know their worth in God’s eyes.
Children, just like adults, benefit greatly from consistent and deliberate self-care activities. Doing self-care activities together not only helps your child to cultivate good habits, it also helps your mind and body operate at its best—exactly the foundation you need to be the best parent you can be!
Self-care activities could be making the bed, keeping their room organized, cooking together, family hikes, Friday night game nights and resting on Sunday after church.
Teaching our children to take care of themselves increases their self-worth; plus, it provides opportunities to build rituals of connection and create a system of shared meaning that helps to keep your family bonded together.
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7. Help Your Child Express Her Feelings and Thoughts
Do you ever hear your child say, “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not good enough.” Licensed parenting expert Lori Wildenberg calls this self-shaming.
In an article she wrote, “10 Ways To Stop Your Child’s Self Shaming,” she says if your child tends to have a defeated mind-set, demonstrates a pattern of pessimism, or has a distorted view of themselves, it’s up to help them process these feelings and thoughts.
“Constant and consistent negative self-messages will affect our child’s belief about his self-worth and will impact his mood and behavior. Negative self-talk has been linked to feelings of general anxiety. It perpetuates feelings of depression, hurt, or anger. It may come in the form of: Worry, doubt, self-shame, procrastination, perfectionism, comparison, or complaining. Fear is often the catalyst to self-destructive talk; fear of failure and fear of acceptance.”
Instead of trying to make them feel better about themselves, she offers parents seven steps to help your child process her feelings. When you hear your child’s self-shaming, she suggests:
1. Mirror back to your child what you see while naming the emotion, “Wow, I can see you are frustrated.”
2. Normalize the struggle. “Most people struggle with one thing or another. It’s okay. We learn through the challenges.”
3. Empathize. Your kids need to know you struggle too. “Math was always hard for me too.”
4. Challenge the self-talk by asking some questions to get a handle on the scope of the struggle. “Is it this particular assignment that is exasperating you?”
5. Re-frame the comment. “This assignment is frustrating.” Rather than, “I’m so stupid.”
6. Adjust the perspective by restating, “I feel so dumb when I have trouble with math.” Rather than, “I am so stupid.”
7. Play a supportive role. Don’t take over. Ask questions instead. “What’s your plan?” or “How can I help?”
If you’re like me, you see your failures and parenting mistakes as big mountains to overcome. Give yourself grace and thank God for a new day to begin again. Since our children are already born with invaluable self worth, our job becomes a little bit simpler—to make sure that we are teaching them their worth.
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