Have you seen or read The Help? There is a phrase from this book by Kathryn Stockett that has stuck with me. It is from the scene when housekeeper, Aibileene Clark, sits little Mae Mobley on her lap, looks intently into her eyes and says:
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
This simple exhortation becomes a private sanctuary between the two. Aibileene’s primary purpose in this interchange is to infuse Mae Mobley with a sense of self worth – one that she is unlikely to get from her indifferent and otherwise preoccupied mother.
Aibileene’s words may not be grammatically correct but the message is clear:
Genuine affirmation is an essential ingredient in child development.
The Importance of Affirmation
There is a body of research that has investigated the topic of resiliency in children. Resilient children come from adverse and sometimes traumatic upbringings. But, despite these difficult beginnings, these children are able to rise above their circumstances and develop into contributing and well-adjusted adults.
So what makes the difference between a resilient child and a fragile one? There are a lot of contributing factors, but the support of a caring, affirming adult is one of the strongest protective factors, according to the research.
What this Means to Parents
The definition of affirmation is “to declare something to be true.” To affirm a child, then, is to communicate things that we know to be true about them. For Christian parents, these things will have spiritual significance and biblical underpinnings.
Affirmation from the Christian parent to their children can take two forms: statements of what is known to be true about them uniquely and statements about what is known to be true about them because of their status in Christ.
John 3:8 says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Just like we can see the effects of the wind through the trees, we can see the effects of the Spirit in our kid’s lives. It is our job to point these out.
Here are some examples:
- “I have noticed how patient you are with your sister lately. I can see the Spirit working in you.”
- “You used to get upset when you didn’t win a game. Now you are so gracious when you lose. I can see God working in your heart.”
- “Remember how you used to lose your temper a lot? That hardly happens any more. You are growing up in the Lord.”
The Bible is full of truths that we can share with our children because of their status in Christ. This is not dependent upon their behavior or progress on a goal. These can, and should, be pointed out in the good times and the bad.
Here are some examples:
- You are a friend of God! (Ephesians 2:13 and John 15:15).
- You are very important to Christ’s church (Romans 12:5).
- God chose you. You are important to Him (1 Peter 2:9).
- Your sin has been paid for (Colossians 2:14-15).
- God has a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
Parenting is not just about teaching children what they can and cannot do. It is our job to go beyond the “do’s” and “don’ts” to help our children see themselves the way God sees them – like a treasured possession (Deuteronomy 26:18).
Let’s make it a practice to affirm our children every day.