I once heard a speaker say that our children have an empty cup that they carry around with them. If we don’t fill the cup with words of encouragement and love, they will do whatever it takes to get their cup filled.
When I heard that, I took it to heart. My dad is an encourager, and I knew it made a difference in my growing-up years. With my own children, I tend to compliment often, and to say “I love you” and “Good job” a lot. But what could I do to make my praise more specific, more targeted to a child’s good qualities and strengths, and less outward-performance-based? These were all good questions, and I mulled them over, then promptly forgot about them, probably because I had to change a dirty diaper or something equally urgent.
Some months later I read a book called The Book Of Jewish Values: A Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living. In it, Rabbi Telushkin shares that he spends time every Sabbath evening blessing his children, the way the patriarchs did in the Bible. Only instead of waiting until the end of his life, he does it every week! I decided my husband and I would start doing this on Sunday evenings with Miss Pink (Mr. Blue is too little to understand much, but I do give him a little blessing after I’ve sung his songs to him and tucked him in). We all look forward to it every week—if we forget, she reminds us, “Don’t forget my blessing!”
I try to share something specific from that week that has made me proud of my daughter or that I have enjoyed about her. It’s always something that reinforces our values—in other words, telling her she’s pretty wouldn’t fit the criteria (trust me, she hears that enough already). This last week I told her I was proud of her for facing her fears of swimming to the waterfall and proving to herself that she could do something she didn’t think she could do. Other blessings we’ve shared are times when she was kind or generous or tenderhearted, or the way she loves to learn…the possibilities are endless, really. And Justin adds his blessing in there, too. She soaks it in like a sponge!
In the middle of all the tasks that must be accomplished and the mouths that clamor to be fed and the messes that must be cleaned up, it’s good to take time to tell our children what’s good about them, what we LIKE about them, what makes them the very special people we couldn’t live without. And that’s what works for me.
For other ideas, you can go here.