Winnie and her daughter Marissa were watching a nature special together. Winnie noticed a mother eagle feeding, protecting and sheltering her young. This was the picture Winnie had been looking for to help her communicate words of value to her 3-year-old.
Marissa had been a good big sister after her brother was born, running to get a diaper for Winnie or asking to hold the baby. Marissa’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Winnie found a small plush toy eagle at a toy store and waited for a quiet time to talk with Marissa. “Do you remember that TV program about the eagles?” she asked Marissa.
Instantly her daughter recalled many details. “Well, honey, I want you to know that you remind me of that mommy eagle. You’ve helped take such good care of your little brother and I want you to know I am proud of you.” For days, Marissa did not let that eagle out of her arms.
By using an object familiar to Marissa to praise her, Winnie communicated much more than a simple compliment. She gave her daughter an image of one way she was so valuable to her mother.*
Communicating a child’s value can be difficult. Familiar objects help.
Use everyday objects and be clear about the meaning of the object.
- My life with you is like waking up to my birthday every day. You are like the best gift I could ever have.
- You’re like that smiley-face sticker. Your happy spirit brightens my day.
- When you played so hard knowing your team was losing, you reminded me of Grandpa. He never gave up. He’d be proud of you, and I am too.
- You’re just like a beaver. No matter how many times his home is wiped out, he rebuilds again. He always repairs and rebuilds.
*The concept of the blessing, Winnie’s story, and some of the ideas for using everyday objects are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.
Tweetable: Communicating a child’s value can be difficult. Using familiar objects to picture it can help. Click to Tweet
Regardless of our differences in religion, language or ideas, there is no heart that is without an inner divine reference. And each family seems to have a unique impression about when, how and if God makes known his thoughts and feelings toward them, often referred to as blessings. What impressions about God’s blessing are you imparting to the children in your family?
From one of my interviews about spirituality emerged this family’s image of a God who does not bless, but forgets, entire groups of people.
As a young child, if I questioned my family about God or spiritual things, it was often tossed aside as unimportant and not for people like us, that is, those who God forgets.
My grandmother considered our family in the group of those God forgets because we didn’t go to church and there was just too much disaster and brokenness in our lives.
A second family presents a God whose nature is to bless.
Our parental blessing was invested with a certain higher power, intended for the good of our children.
May God bless you and guard you.
May God show you favor and be gracious to you.
May God show you kindness and grant you peace.
To this day, the blessing is prized highly by the children. The value of the benediction repeatedly spoken by the father and mother represents the working of forces that make for righteousness, and the continuity of the Jewish spirit.*
Adult family members can invoke God’s blessing, in their own words and style:
- Bob Dylan’s parental blessing in song: “May God bless and keep you always….. …May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you,
May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong.
May you stay forever young…..”*
- “God, may the people in my life never be left wondering if they are of value to you or to me. Help me to bless them with my words and my actions. Remind me not to leave my words to chance but use them to protect, encourage and renew.” (my prayer)
- “When inspired, I bless my son noting milestones in his life from the past week and anything else that moves me about my relationship with him. There are no specific formulations to these personal prayers, just simple sentiments like, ‘May you continue to approach the smallest discoveries in life with wonder and joy’ or ‘May I continue to learn how to be the best mother to you.’ (Dasee Berkowitz)
What do your blessings toward your children look like in your family?
*Jewish Encyclopedia: “Ethics of Judaism,” pt. ii., p. 213; Bob Dylan, “Forever Young.” Published by Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO
- Regardless of our differences in religion or ideas no heart is without an inner divine reference. Click to Tweet
- Adult family members can invoke God’s blessing on kids in their own words and style. Some examples here. Click to Tweet
One of my family’s weirder slogans or expressions — Self-Praise Stinketh – came into being on account of me. As the story goes, I said so many nice things about myself that they shortened it to SPS to save their breath. Later in life, I had to ask myself, “Why did I do that? Why was I constantly affirming myself?”
It dawned on me
Although my family loved me, they did not often compliment me or praise my accomplishments. When I talked to my mother about it much later in life, she said they didn’t want me to get a big head or grow up to be arrogant. But she also expressed regret and said she wished she had done it differently.
Even though a caregiver may do everything for the best of the children, providing for their needs and more, showering them with gifts– the child will experience a void unless the caregiver’s actions are accompanied by spoken words of acknowledgement.
What are our hindrances to spoken blessings?
Sometimes, it’s fear. We might fear saying the wrong things. We might fear the reaction our words will bring: rejection, embarrassment, doubt, laughter or misunderstanding.
Ironically, for many parents, it is busyness – the countless loving things parents do for their kids – getting in the way of meaningfully saying the words. Kids need to hear us say the words too.
We can learn this skill.
Educator Dr. Becky Bailey suggests five categories of what we might notice in children daily–at times like when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime. This week, say words that:
- Affirm and approve – Cody, you held the door for Grandma. That was helpful.
- Commend and compliment –At the game I noticed how you were looking up while you were dribbling and passing the ball. Great game.
- Specifically speak love and affection – With a song you make up, “Good morning, good morning, how are you today? I love you, I love you, I love you today.”
- Invoke hope and self-confidence – Shayna, you planned the tasks involved in making that diorama. That took organizational skills. You have them.
- Answer pain and disappointment with support and faith – I can imagine you feel embarrassed and deeply hurt by what was said. I heard Taylor say some very hurtful things to you. Go tell Taylor “I don’t appreciate being called names.”
Note: The concept of the blessing is taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing. Dr. Bailey’s examples are found in her book Conscious Discipline.
- Loving acts parents do for kids can get in the way of passing on encouraging words they need to hear. Click to Tweet
- Bless children with the healing power of words. Go here for practical examples you can use right away. Click to Tweet
A dreaded part of my childhood piano lessons came on the days I got excused from school to go before an adjudicator for grading on my skills. I was very nervous, but I did well enough to receive small silver and gold pins signifying my competency.
At times I felt disappointed by my piano performances, and my mother seemed to know the words to say when I knew I messed up. But when her arm, slung around my drooping shoulders, pulled me close the real comfort set in. Touch can mean more than words.
Meaningful touch blesses a child physically.
We can give almost every child a pat on the shoulder, a high five, a fist bump. Temperament is a factor in how much touch and what kind of touch a child wants. And the touch must be right for the relationship you have with that child, as well as being culturally appropriate.
- Auntie gives a manicure.
- An uncle arm wrestles.
- A family friend sneaks up behind, covers your eyes with their hands and says, “Guess who?”
- Grandma holds your hand in both of hers.
Obviously you can hug your own children but not every neighbor child or friend of your child. Follow the child’s cues. Touch is meaningful when it is done for the benefit of the child, not our own. It symbolizes acceptance. Conversely, if someone refuses to shake hands with you or touch you, it symbolizes lack of acceptance.
Appropriate touch blesses a child emotionally.
If we are consistent about being a source of blessing to others, we will begin to recognize the number of biochemical changes taking place when we reach out and touch. Deep emotional needs are met.
With all the media reports of child abuse and inappropriate touching, we back away from touch. Realize, however, that avoiding healthy, appropriate, meaningful touch sacrifices physical and emotional health in a child’s life.
How can children feel the touch of God?
Obviously God, being spirit, does not touch us physically. God’s touch is inward. It is a lack of fear. It is the absence of anxiety. It’s the knowledge that no matter what noise, what disappointment, what complications surround you—you are held. We crave these touches because they will not come and go with each passing circumstance. These are God’s meaningful touches for us and the children we love.
Ways to bless children right now with meaningful touch.
- Give a spontaneous hug.
- Put your arm around a child while watching a movie.
- Give a goodbye kiss on the head when kids are heading out to school.
Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.
Tweetable: How can children feel the touch of God? See how our meaningful touch can facilitate it. Click to Tweet