Category: Parenting

Praising your Children

Can you praise children too much? I think you can. First, let’s distinguish between words of affection and words of praise.  Affection focuses on who the child is, “I love you. You are so beautiful. I love the color of your hair.” These are words of affection.  Praise focuses on what the child does–something over which the child has a degree of control. “Good catch. Great job.” These are words of praise. Children know when praise is deserved and when it is given simply to make them feel good. Random praise will come across as insincere. When you can’t praise the performance, praise the effort. “You worked hard at that, and I’m proud of you.” Certainly you want to praise your children, but make sure it is true and justified.

Affirming Your Young Children

Long before children understand the meaning of words, children receive emotional messages. The tone of voice and the gentleness of mood communicate emotional warmth. All parents speak to their infants, and what the baby understands is the look on the face and the affectionate sounds, combined with physical closeness. Young children don’t understand the meaning of the words, “I love you.” They can’t see love as they can see a toy or a book. But they begin to associate the words “I love you” with the hugs and tender touches you give them as you say the words. It’s the tone of voice that they hear and they associate it with the words, “I love you.” Affirming words communicate love even before the child understands the words.

Feeling Loved as a Child

Almost all parents love their children, but not all children feel loved. Often the difference lies in the way parents talk to their children. Words of affection, praise, and encouragement communicate “I love you.” They fall like gentle rain on the soul of the child. They nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security. Conversely, cutting words, spoken out of anger, can hurt a child’s self-esteem and create doubts about his abilities. Children think we deeply believe what we say. The Hebrew proverb did not overstate the reality when it said, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Words are spoken quickly, but are not soon forgotten. A child reaps the benefits of affirming words for a lifetime.

Loving Your Children

“I don’t ever do anything right.” Those are not the words of a child, but of a 35-year-old single daughter who has never felt loved by her mother. “I could never please my Mom,” she said. “Whatever I did it was never good enough for her. I just wish that once I could hear her say, ‘I’m proud of you.’” This daughter’s love language is “word of affirmation,” but she never received them from her mother. Does the mother love the daughter? My guess is ‘yes.’ How tragic that she never learned to communicate her love in a language her daughter could understand. Dr. Ross Campbell and I wrote the book: The 5 Love languages of Children with the prayer that it would help thousands of parents learn to effectively love their children.  Do you know the ‘love language’ of your child?

Q&A: A Child Identifying as Gay

Q: My son told us he is gay. I’m having a lot trouble dealing with this. What is your advice?

Gary: Any parent tends to be disappointed when his or her child indicates that he or she is gay. Men and women are made for each other; it is God’s design. Anything other than that is outside that primary design of God. I’m not going to explain all the ins and outs of homosexuality, but we need to love our children no matter what. I would suggest expressing to him or her your disappointment for this and your confusion about how it could be, as well as your continuing love for your child. Suggest that he or she do some serious reading or see a counselor as well to try and understand his or herself better. This is the approach I would take.

A Faulty Model

One of the reasons that some people have trouble in marriage is that they grew up with a faulty model or no model at all. A child who grows up in a single parent home has no model demonstrating what a healthy marriage looks like, unless they may have grandparents, relatives, or family friends that provide this model. Those who grow up with both parents will likely replicate in their marriage what they saw in their parents. This can be good, or it can be extremely bad depending on the parental model. What model are you setting for your children? If you’re not happy with your answer to this question, read a book, attend a marriage seminar, seek counseling, do something. If your spouse is unwilling, do it alone and pray that he or she will eventually join you. You owe it to your children.

Parenting an Adult, pt. 2

What is the loving thing to do when your adult child moves back home? Let me give you three suggestions:

1. Establish a time limit for their stay. Everyone will feel more relaxed if you have some idea of how long this return stay is going to last.
2. Formulate a financial agreement. In the rare event that your child cannot make any financial contribution, then assign tasks such as cleaning, yard work, or repairs. They will feel better if they are making a contribution.
3. Respect the need for privacy. This involves not only living space, but the use of phone, possessions, and noise level. Make life as pleasant as possible. Try to avoid becoming a war zone.

Parenting an Adult, pt. 1

When Psychiatrist Ross Campbell and I teamed up and wrote our book: How to Really Love Your Adult Child, we discovered that most parents are greatly frustrated when their children move back home. In reality, it gives the parents another opportunity to parent their children. Some adults are simply not ready for the real world. They have tried and failed. Now, they may be more open to your wisdom than when they were teenagers. Call a family conference. Find out what your adult child is thinking. Do they have plans? Or, do they just want to ‘hang out’? Hanging out may be okay for a week or two, but you and your child need plans on how to move toward some obtainable goal. Even a small goal is better than no goal.

The Boomerang Generation

Have you seen the T-Shirt that says, “It’s not an empty nest until they get their stuff out of the attic.” For you, that may not seem even remotely funny. You aren’t thinking about emptying the attic, but about what you are going to do now that your adult child has moved back into your house. They are called the boomerang generation. They leave, but they come back. Certainly you love them, but you had not anticipated this. It has thrown your life and perhaps your marriage into a tail spin. The most common problem is that you and your spouse disagree over how to treat the boomerang child. Let me challenge you to make a fundamental decision. Reach out for help: a book, a pastor, a friend are all good resources. Take advantage of what others have learned.

How to Balance Marriage and Parenting, Pt. 5

How is it that some couples have four children and are able to maintain a growing marriage; while others have one child and don’t have time for each other?  Often the difference is in how we manage our lives.  Would you like to take a walk with your spouse after dinner?  Then make it happen.  Discuss it with each other and come up with a plan.  What else would you like to do to keep your marriage alive?  Make a list and one by one make time, money, and energy to make the dream a reality.  The process itself is exciting.  The two of you are a team and working together you can have a growing marriage and be good parents.  Your children deserve both.  And that is also God’s design for the two of you.