Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Encouraging my kids

Every school year, I know things can go to a bad place when you mix me and homework and a small child.

I have issues, I am well aware. I am not very patient with complaining about homework, throwing oneself on the bed in dramatics about homework (them, not me), laziness, forgetfulness, etc. I've written some posts (like this one) about this very topic because it's one area in which I am always working out my faith.

I also know the verse from the Book of Veggie Tales, chapter 3 (just made that up): "A thankful heart is a happy heart."  (I'm sure it's also in the Bible in some form or another.) Gratitude for my kids make me less grouchy over their childishness.

And the quickest path to feeling thankful for my kids is through encouraging them. To find something to compliment or build up about him. To see the good in her that she struggles to see herself.  

I've armed myself with a couple of ways this fall to intentionally encourage my kids. One is Lunchbox Love. (I blogged about these last year here).

These little credit-card sized notes are so great. You should get some. Inexpensive, reusable, easy to read, and simple. If you're packing a lunch box, yeah, you could write a note or use a Post-It. I'd just rather throw one of these in, because at 6 a.m., I don't have a lot of words. Or dexterity. The cards have something encouraging on one side, and something quirky on the other, such as a fun fact about how many teeth sharks have. Both kids got one on the first day this year. (I was shocked I didn't forget.)

The other thing I found is $.99 cards for kids at the Christian book store. These are more for moments when you know your child really needs an uplifting word. The ones I found are by Dayspring, part of a line called Little Inspirations, and they are so sweet!

And lastly, I'm sure I've shared about this book before. But what a change it made in my life as a mother! It is called How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It's a long title. But it's a classic, written many years ago, and read by over 2 million people. It has taught me many ways to see my children and build them up. I read it when my daughter was 4, and knew quickly that God had placed this book in my hands, literally equipping me with what I needed. Five years later, I refer to it from time to time, rereading sections, and reminding myself of the better ways to speak to my children. It is a secular book, but it was life-changing for me, since it helped correct some bad communication habits I'd picked up from my own childhood.

I now TRY to say things like this:

Instead of, "Wow, that picture is incredible!" I try to say, "Wow, I can see how careful you were to stay in the lines. That's what I call diligence."

Instead of, "Your handwriting is so messy. You can't turn in work like this!" I try to say, "It takes patience to make your letters neatly. Try again."

Instead of, "I'm so proud of you! Your oral report was the best one!" I try to say, "You looked up, you stayed focused, and you read your facts with a loud voice. I can see you tried your hardest. You should be proud of yourself!"

I really, really, really want to be an encourager in my children's lives. I don't want to simply offer commentary about what they do, or where they fall compared to other kids. Doesn't that approach lead to performance-driven adults? I want to see who they are, and what they need. And most of all, I want to listen. Here's my personal plan this fall to be an encourager to my kids. When homework time is about to go awry, I plan to:

Step 1: Listen and tune into their hearts' needs
Step 2: Find my own thankfulness for them
Step 3: Speak words of encouragement about his/her character

Easy peasy, right? Not really. But I'm sure going to do my best!



  1. Absolutely great words of wisdom. intentional is a big word for me. I LOVE the lunchbox cards...I'm going to look into those!

  2. leslie, thank you.

    first, i love your mommy heart, and that you are intentional.

    before i had children i read gray smalley & john trent's book "the gift of the blessing." it definitely directed me how to speak positive and meaningful words over my children.

    i can see that the way we communicate with them is also how they communicate with each other.

    that delights this mother to no end!

    still, i fail. a lot. a lot. A LOT.

    thank you for this encouragement and reminder today, and especially now as my kiddos are in the beginning of their teen years.

    now, i'm off to going go get me some dayspring cards.

  3. Fantastic idea. I throw in my own notes (written on a sticky note) into their lunch boxes but am in need of some new, fresh ideas! Thanks.

  4. This is SO awesome. Love this idea & I am totally doing this next year when Kate goes to Kinder & brings a lunch. Thanks so much for the great idea....love your encouraging heart!

  5. My daughter's in kindergarten, and can't read very well yet, but I still slip notes into her lunch box. Sometimes she has the teacher read them to her, and sometimes she comes home and asks me what it says. :0) But I know it encourages her. I love that you do this with your kids, too, and I love the way you do it! I usually just use a plain ol' index card, but yours are so beautiful, I pinned them. What a fun art project for me, and I do think it would be even more pleasing to my daughter to have something pretty in her lunch pail b/c she loves crafts, too. Thanks for the great idea.

    As for the other part of your post, being an encouraging parent, this is something I am intentional about, too. In the beginning of my daughter's life I noticed that my complements of "You're pretty" and "I'm so proud of you" either fell on deaf ears, or were answered by her with a "Why?" So I started saying, "You're beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside because you play so nicely with your baby brother." And, "I'm proud of you because you had patience while waiting for dinner tonight." She seems to beam with joy when I say these things to her. They sure mean a lot more.

    Sorry for writing a novel in your comment box!! Your blog is a blessing.

  6. I love those dayspring cards, I better sneak off to the bookstore to pick some up.

    More than that though I love your reminder to speak life and encouragement.

    And that book has been on my book list for a while, you've reminded me about it....better go hunt it down!

  7. I'm so glad you shared this! So timely for me. May God bless you!

  8. So you're a fellow Avett Brothers fan? I would love to hang and craft! Those lunch box cards are so sweet :)

  9. i love your heart.
    those steps are true and right. thanks for sharing this reminder today, leslie! you are a blessing! xo

  10. I need to read that book now that Im a teacher. I can do just fine with my girls who are pretty good most of the time; its a bit harder to stay positive with some students in the classroom:) Right now Im drinking in all the resources I can on positive reinforcement/encouragement.

  11. Gosh I love this. I need to get that book...b/c I would have never thought of the alternative things to say. And I have those lunchbox cards..they're like $1 at Michael's. Love it Leslie!

  12. brilliant, of course! you always are. I'm going to make my own lunchbox notes. so cute. And now I can't get that "Happy Heart" Veggie Tales song out of my head! Thanks! xoxo

  13. I JUST wrote about this a few weeks ago: http://morebangforyourbucks.blogspot.com/2011/08/encouragement-what-does-it-mean-to-you.html

    Great minds think alike apparently. :)
    Hope your day is great!

  14. Wonderful ideas Leslie. And I love that you are honest about not always being patient - that honesty makes me listen and respect your advice/input even more so than just saying "this is how great of a mom I am." Does that make sense? I myself started a patience jar to pull out when I do homework with Taylor. Every time I lose my patience I have to put in a nickel. I've only lost it once in the 5 weeks we've been in school. Not bad :)