Parents, Be Careful What You Affirm in Your Kids

Everybody likes to be complimented; everyone enjoys being affirmed. Of course that’s true – it feels good to be acknowledged and appreciated. For someone to notice. To have the breath of fresh air of affirmation in a world of criticism. But maybe we can go a step farther and say that not only does everyone like to be affirmed; everyone needs to be affirmed.

That is to say, it’s not just nice when someone affirms you; it actually fulfills a very basic and fundamental need deep inside of us. The problem, as with so many other things, is that we seek that affirmation and validation in the wrong places:

From work. From the culture. From Instagram. From wherever we can find it, and unfortunately, most of those affirmations are empty because we are failing to find our affirmation in the right place which is from God. It is a good and right thing to live in such a way so as to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” It is a destructive, selfish, and sinful way to live to hear those same words primarily from somewhere else. But in the event that we don’t perceive we are receiving affirmation from the right place, we will inevitably look for it elsewhere.

We will do that, and so will our children.

We want our children too to live for the approval of the Lord. But as parents, one of the ways we point our children to that desire is through our commitment to affirmation. We ought to want our kids to know they are our beloved children, that we are proud of them, and to know it in such a way that they can believe the same thing is true from their greater Father. If that is one of our goals as parents, then we must affirm our kids, but we must also be careful about what we affirm in our kids.

That’s because affirmation is like fertilizer. Whatever you put it on tends to grow.

Here’s what I mean:

As parents, we might give our kids all kinds of compliments. We might tell them they are beautiful. Or smart. Or talented. Or responsible. Or whatever. We should affirm them in all these ways and even more, and yet at the same time, we should do so with the knowledge that whatever the main focus of our affirmations is will tend to become the main focus of our kids. Such is the influence and responsibility we have as parents. 

So if we are constantly and only telling our daughters how beautiful they are, then our daughters will begin to see their physical beauty as their main characteristic. If we always and only tell our sons how tough they are, then our sons will begin to see their toughness as their main characteristic. Nothing wrong, of course, with affirming either of those things, and yet we should make sure that the main thing we are affirming in our kids has more to do with their character than their beauty; more to do with who they are than what they are doing. We should trend toward the inside rather than the outside. Because that’s what we want to grow in them.

In this, we truly are affirming the way God affirms – not affirming what the world fixates on, but instead what God sees. We are affirming the heart. And by God’s grace, that is what He will continue to grow in them.

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