Have you ever heard the old adage “when you’re inside the jar, you can’t read the label?” If you are a mom or dad, grandparent or mentor, you know those words are especially applicable to children.
From an early age, our children reveal who God created them to be. We see glimpses of their natural wiring and inclinations practically from birth.
Case in point, I remember, my less-than-two-year-old daughter saying: “Mommy, I want to wear THOSE shoes.” Yes, she was and is decisive and has great fashion sense. Or at age three, when my parents were visiting at Christmas, and my dad had lost his eyesight due to macular degeneration, Anne insisting that SHE would read the Christmas books to Papa that year (even though she could not yet read). Her compassionate and thoughtful nature was on full display even then.
We know that outside influences hit them as soon as they are exposed to the world. Advertisers, media, even school curricula are often focused on telling them who they are. Children are like sponges and are vulnerable to absorbing lies about their identity and abilities. They naturally compare themselves to others, and the tendency to do that grows exponentially as they get older. (Can you say “Middle School” anyone?) How many children in your world think they don’t “measure up?” I am sure that breaks your heart as it does mine.
How do we combat that? How do we “train up a child in the way he should go (and in keeping with his individual gift or bent?) Proverbs 22:6 AMP How do we encourage and affirm the children we are blessed to know and love?
Recently, I saw a wonderfully creative way to reinforce the best in a child. My friend Erik Jacobsen shared one way that he and his wife encourage the strengths and gifts in their children. They actually mount words on each child’s bedroom walls that are reflective of their character.
For Colin, the words are: strategic, strong, clever, teacher, intelligent.
For Tyler, the words are: determined, helper, dreamer, perceptive, creative, joy.
Isn’t that beautiful and life-giving? Every day, their children are reminded of their wonderfully unique attributes and character qualities. They are not just hearing or reading those words occasionally, they are SEEING them daily when they rise up and when they go to bed. And what a creative way to combat sibling rivalry! Of course, it can still occur, but instead of focusing on what they’re NOT, a child can focus on who they are and were created to be.
If you’re wondering, crafts stores such as Hobby Lobby and Michael’s carry letters that can be mounted. If you’re gifted with a paint brush, you could also paint the words on their walls. Undoubtedly, there are many possibilities on sites like Etsy, too.
Affirmation from loving adults is incredibly important and life-giving to our children. Saying “I love you” isn’t enough. They know that. Be intentional in reinforcing the special and unique way God created them. You won’t be sorry!