It’s tough being a child. Not yet having the perspective that comes with adulthood, when others speak cruel barbs into their lives, they don’t know how to handle it. Without our help, they end up believing the lies about themselves that other children (or even adults) throw their way.
Most of us have been through this ourselves as children. Often, we still deal with the scars. So, what can we do to help our kids, so they don’t end up with giant problems of rejection and low self-esteem? Here are some tips to get started.
Speak blessings over them.
Compliment your children often — at least daily. Tell them when they do well, even in the smallest things. Mention strengths and excellent qualities you see in them.
By human nature, it’s very easy for us to see their faults. We’re prone to pointing out what they aren’t doing right. Remembering to mention their good points is a lot more challenging, but it is a habit we parents must work to cultivate in ourselves.
Build a sense of divine purpose in them.
Tell them they are valuable to God, and that He planned awesome purposes for them since before they were born — even before the world began. Here are some Bible verses to help you:
Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has ordained beforehand that we should walk in.”
Romans 8:28-30 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son … Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called ….”
2 Timothy 1:9 – “Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
I love that these verses tell us we are created to do good works for Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), but we are not called by God because we’ve already done good works (2 Timothy 1:9). He planned ahead of time what we would do for Him, and He gives us grace to accomplish His plans, but it’s not based on our performance. We must frequently convey this truth to our children.
As part of blessing our children, we should speak over them, as much as we know, the destiny God has for them.
A friend told me the story of how she consistently spoke destiny into her child. She often said, “Gracie, you are an awesome woman of God!” Gracie didn’t always act like one; she was only a little girl, and quite mischievous. But when Gracie was about ten years old, she had an accident which nearly took her life. As the paramedics worked to stabilize her, they checked her cognizance by asking her name. Gracie’s half-conscious reply was, “I am Gracie __________, and I am an awesome woman of God!” That mom’s words had taken hold in her daughter to the point where she believed them in her heart.
Explain why other people are unkind.
If our children can see the problem is with the person who is speaking evil, not with themselves, it takes the edge off the pain. Here are some possible ways to address the situation:
“Mary wouldn’t say those things if she felt glad about herself inside. She’s just lashing out at someone else because she is hurting. It’s not really about you.”
“John is insecure. He’s putting you down because he doesn’t feel valuable. He wants to feel superior to someone else.”
“Jen is having a hard time at home right now. Her family is having many problems, and she’s hurting you because she hurts so much inside herself.”
“Brent has experienced a lot of rejection in life. He is letting loose on you some of the rejection he feels toward himself every day. He doesn’t even know why he does this, but in some way, it makes him feel more in control of his life.”
It’s true with children as it is with adults: hurting people hurt other people. If we can help our children to understand this and redirect their own hurt to compassion for the hurting person, it will help them.
Use the negativity they’ve received as a teaching tool.
I often told my children, “I know this is really hurtful, but the Lord is allowing it to happen so you will learn how not to treat others.” I explained that God would use the hurt they felt to help them become compassionate people, sensitive to the feelings of others. We talked a lot about putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, thinking about how someone might be affected by our words.
Frequently remind them of The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. Read the passages surrounding those verses and discuss how to practically walk them out in everyday life.
Here are additional verses we used with our children:
Psalm 141:3 — “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
Proverbs 31:26 — “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
We discussed the practical applications we could make from these verses, memorized them together, and often prayed for the grace to live them out well. When I heard one of my children treating another unkindly, all I had to say was, “The law of kindness!” to bring right behavior to their remembrance.
Teach them to deflect negativity by speaking the opposite over themselves.
Truth is much more powerful than lies, but we have to diligently wield it. Learn Bible verses together which speak the truth of your children’s value. Help them develop the habit of speaking blessing over themselves as an antidote to the curses of others. I have a series on this subject at my other blog, Out of the Fire, which you may find helpful.
Teach them to forgive immediately.
It starts with a decision to forgive. The emotions follow the decision. But the quicker we make the decision, the quicker the emotions line up.
Remind them that Jesus commands us to forgive (that’s the decision part). Read together Bible passages which talk about this. You may need to help them pray a simple prayer of forgiveness. If you need help with teaching forgiveness, Character Building for Families, Volume 2 has a section in the mercy unit to help you walk through this with your children. You may also find the kindness unit in Volume 1 helpful.
Character Building for Families,
by Lee Ann Rubsam