The blessing of undivided attention

I’ve never been good at multi-tasking. It’s not that I didn’t try. I tried for years.  I just can’t hold my thoughts together when I’m working on multiple projects at once. It’s always been this way, so it’s not just because I’m getting older. I admit being jealous of people who have bookmarks in several books right now, digital or otherwise.  To keep plot lines in context? Not a chance.

Suddenly an inability to divide attention is a hot commodity.

To listen with full attention is in demand.  Personal devices, certainly good and necessary, are perhaps the most common enemy of our desire to give all our attention to what our loved one has to say.  To be emotionally present with others communicates their importance.

As we finish this series of blog posts on the topic of blessing children, we will now focus on making an active commitment to giving them our undivided attention.

What we can do to develop their spirit

Look for opportunities to talk with them and find out what is going on in their minds. Ask good questions that allow them to respond however they want. Help them sort through their dreams, opinions, wishes, and just generally be available.  Be honest with them about your own thoughts and goals. Integrate their faith and morals when it is natural to do so.

Author Gary Smalley wrote about spiritual growth, “Our purpose in listening with full attention is to be able to take what children share and weave it into words and stories that teach new truths and communicate not only a blessing, but also principles for living.”

Expect to pay a price

From his own experience with his three children, Gary found that his commitment to bless them meant:

  • Hard work–to provide a blessing to each child
  • Time—to meaningfully touch and hug them
  • Courage—to put into a spoken message the words of love that have been on the tip of my tongue
  • Wisdom and boldness—to highly value them
  • Creativity—to picture a future for them filled with hope and with God’s best for their lives

Yet we also get a blessing from the joy we feel at seeing a child’s life bloom and grow because of our commitment to them.  It is in the giving that we receive.

Ways to bless children right now

  • Let the child wear something of yours (a necklace, a baseball cap) during dinner because you trust the child can handle it.
  • Ask, “What would it take for this to be a great weekend for you?” and try to see that it happens.
  • Learn a new age-appropriate joke and tell them.
  • Make their favorite dinner on a day other than their birthday.

Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas here are taken from the book, The Blessing.

Tweetable: When you commit yourself to give undivided attention to kids more often, expect to pay a price. Click to Tweet

4 ideas to bless kids with your undivided attention beyond making eye contact and listening. Find them here. Click to Tweet

Bless a child with the healing power of words

boy-covers-noseOne 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.

elem-class-teacherEducator 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:

  1. Affirm and approveCody, you held the door for Grandma. That was helpful.
  2. Commend and complimentAt the game I noticed how you were looking up while you were dribbling and passing the ball. Great game.
  3. Specifically speak love and affectionWith a song you make up, “Good morning, good morning, how are you today? I love you, I love you, I love you today.”
  4. Invoke hope and self-confidenceShayna, you planned the tasks involved in making that diorama. That took organizational skills. You have them.
  5. Answer pain and disappointment with support and faithI 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


5 actions to do right now that bless a child

alphabetI was an English major in college so I appreciate good, strong words. Blessing is such a word:

“Landing a job allowing me to work at home has been a mixed blessing [has advantages and disadvantages]. Or “I live in a country where I enjoy the blessings of liberty” [benefits]. Or “The town council passed the ordinance with the mayor’s blessing [approval]. Or “Grandfather, will you say a blessing [praise God] before we eat our meal?”

But the kind of blessing we are chasing in this series resembles this:

My friend’s mother always gave me a hug when I saw her and asked,  ‘Hey buddy, how’s your day going?’ I will never forget how much her blessing [special favor or mercy] meant to me when my own mother was preoccupied with a serious crisis in her life”

There’s an element of skill involved in showing admiration and expressing favor in a way a child can receive. Blessings comes from one’s heart.

jackie_joyner-kersee_eugene_2014Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Another way to bless

In her book The Path Laurie Beth Jones wrote, “It is said that the grandmother of Jackie Joyner-Kersee named the child Jackie, “Because someday she is going to be the first lady of something!”

Jackie grew up in an atmosphere of positive expectation and blessing. She overcame a birth defect and went on to become the first lady of track and field, winning 3 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze Olympic medals at four different Olympic Games. Sports Illustrated for Women magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time.

Try one of these 5 actions to bless children right now.

  • Make eye contact and listen.
  • Make up a positive, loving nickname.
  • Use words: “You are going to make a significant impact with your life because of your empathy and kindness.” (Or courage and honesty, or fill-in-the blank with the child’s unique qualities).
  • Use one of the ideas they give when you ask for their opinion.
  • Let a child use something of yours for a short time because you trust the child.

Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “5 actions to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.

Tweetable: To speak a word of blessing/favor to a child so they can receive it involves an element of skill. Ideas here. Click to Tweet


A clear challenge to bless

musicianPopular culture is full of tunes about blessing. From rapper Big Sean to Rascal Flatts, Celine Dion, Martha and the Vandellas, Irving Berlin and back again, we’ve got the topic covered.

Basically, blessing means to wish well. Sometimes a young person will approach the parents to ask, “Will you give us your blessing?” before popping the question of marriage.

A blessing is often given as a statement of divine favor–a benediction. For example, when his friend embarked upon a new job, John O’Donohue offered: “May the sacredness of your work bring light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.”

Yet the reality of everyday life tells a different story.

Most of us don’t bless people as a way of life. Personally I may be kind or helpful. But I would like to increase my skill of intentionally blessing people.

woman-1439323What if blessings have power to answer contemporary dilemmas, such as increased polarization within our society? As I shopped for gifts during the holiday season, I blessed store clerks, “May you have no angry customers all day” which never failed to cause their eyes to turn from scanning items and to lock on mine as I continued, “Be blessed today.”

In response, one clerk put her hand to her lips and sent a kiss to me. Another stopped for a few seconds of stunned silence as her eyes danced and she said, “I receive that!”  The power of a blessing lies in a heartfelt wish for the person’s happiness and comfort. This stands in stark contrast to the negative, even hostile, words rising in society.

A blog series–a challenge to bless

Over the next several blog posts I invite you to explore with me some ways to practice how to bless others for their well-being and success.  As always, the posts will be child-centered and spiritually oriented.

Blessings flow from the heart, not from a cognitive formula. Every new experience increases our skill in understanding how and when to wish the best for others.

May these words of hope and love bring out the best in you in 2017, as you seek to bless those who need it the most.

Tweetable: Looking to increase your intentionality of blessing, not blasting, with your words in 2017? Follow this. Click to Tweet