“…to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14, ESV).
It’s easy to become focused on what our children are doing wrong.
- When the toddler spews the food he doesn’t like across the room, we have to clean it up. And we have to train him to behave differently.
- When angry boys resort to punching each other, we have to evaluate their stories. We have to discipline them and train them in patience and love.
- When the garbage isn’t emptied again, we have to track down the guilty party, see that he does his job, and train him toward greater responsibility.
But when the garbage is emptied, we just put more garbage in the can. When no one is arguing, we manage to get more of our to-do list done. When things are going well, it’s easy to coast. We can forget to give thanks and commend those who are doing well.
We can unintentionally discourage our children when we remember to discipline, but forget to encourage. Like the leaders that Peter says are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14), we are called to discipline wrongdoers, but also to praise and encourage those who do good.
Doug Wilson likens this to withdrawals and deposits in a checking account. If we just write checks and never make deposits, the checks we write will bounce. In the same way, if we just correct our children but never encourage them, our discipline efforts will fail. Focus on making deposits!
Personally, I know I tend to “overdraw”. I spot the wrongdoer much quicker than I do the “right-doer.” God woke me up to this fact when our second-born was just a little guy. Discipline was just not getting through to his mischievous little brain. We would discipline, send him on his way, and then discipline him for the exact same offense just a few minutes later. And he really didn’t seem to care.
He started to change when I changed. I started to look for what he was doing right. Instead of focusing all my attention on his wrongdoing, I started looking for opportunities to bless him when he was doing something good. That’s when things started to change.
That’s how God treats me. He doesn’t overlook my sin. He keeps His promises and disciplines me (often after much undeserved mercy and long-suffering on His part). But He also blesses me when, by His grace, I obey Him. His Word is filled with promises of blessing for those who choose to obey Him. Those promises are part of what gives me hope as I persevere in following Him!
I’m sure many of you are very good at encouraging your children when they do well. For those of you, like me, who could use some help in this area, I challenge you to spend the next few days catching your children in the act of doing good.
Put on a new pair of “glasses”. Use them to help you see evidences of God’s work in their lives. Notice when everyone is getting along, when they make their beds without reminding, when they refrain from clobbering their brother, when they clear the table without being asked. Pay attention, and grab every opportunity to encourage and bless. Watch your children play, think about all the chores they do around the house, appreciate their humor, notice their strong points. Take notes, if you need to, and start blessing your children with your encouragement!
Some ideas to get you started:
- Words of praise and encouragement: “I love you.” “Look at how much better you are doing in this area!” “Remember how difficult this use to be for you? Praise God for His work in your life!” “I am so thankful for the work God is doing in your life. You are doing so much better in _____.” “You are such a blessing to me!” “Your cheerful attitude is such an encouragement to me.” “You’ve grown so much in this area!” “Thank you for faithfully ________ every day.” “It is so nice to know I can depend on you to _________.” “I’ve noticed that you and ___ are getting along much better lately. God is helping you be more patient, isn’t he?” “Yay! I saw that! Good work!”
- Physical gestures: A high-five, thumbs up, a wink across the room, big smile, big hug, pat on the back, squeeze around the waist, applause!
- Gifts and special events: Sometimes real progress in an area of serious struggle might warrant a special blessing – a special home-baked treat, a favorite dinner, a stop at the donut shop while out doing errands, a piece of jewelry, a softball mitt, tickets to a game together, a backyard campout – along with words of encouragement and love, and always pointing to the gracious God who has strengthened and enabled them to grow.