Affirming our grandchildren – it’s key: to building strong relationships, to discipleship, to passing the faith.
Our words are powerful. When handled well, they can build up, encourage, communicate love, and convey value to our grandchildren. On the other hand, our disregard in the use of our words, and even our silence, have the effect of performing just the opposite work in the lives of our grandchildren.
Knowing this, it’s imperative that we understand AFFIRMATION and learn to practice it well.
WHAT IS GOD-CENTERED AFFIRMATION?
Words can get muddied. Consider, for example the words: blessing, encouragement, and affirmation. We often use them interchangeably and while there’s nothing wrong with that practice, at their core, these words are distinct in meaning.
A BLESSING is a word or action that delivers refreshment and hope to its recipient.
According to John Trent, a blessing is the gift of acceptance and unconditional love passed from one generation to another through meaningful touch, a spoken message, attaching high value, picturing a special future and an active commitment. A blessing is live giving, live-changing.
ENCOURAGEMENT applies to words or actions that offer support, confidence and hope. Encouragement looks forward, painting a bright future of something that “could be.” Think of it as “cheerleading.”
AFFIRMATION, on the other hand, looks backward. It confirms something that has already happened and been observed.
“Affirmation is truthfully declaring by complimentary word or action the goodness of something. Good affirmation attests, certifies, or confirms that which honors God, that which is morally upright.”Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation (page 132)
BLESSING, ENCOURAGEMENT, & AFFIRMATION
As we look a little more closely at our definitions, we see that:
- Not all blessings affirm.
- Not all encouragements are affirmations.
- Affirmation is a particular type of blessing.
- Affirmation is a particular type of encouragement.
In short, one way to bless our grandchildren is to offer them encouragement, and one way to encourage them is through affirmation.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO AFFIRM OUR GRANDCHILDREN?
- The ongoing practice of affirmation earns us a hearing. Our grandchildren are much more willing to listen to us when they have been the recipients of refreshment and hope extended by us.
- Affirmation lifts their spirits.
- Our words of affirmation motivate and incentivize our grandchildren.
- When we make the affirming of our grandchildren a habit, we are easier to live with. We become someone they want to be around.
- Being an affirmer changes us. As we make a practice of looking for evidence of God’s grace and character in our grandchildren, we move from being complain-ers to commend-ers which improves our disposition and emotional state. We become more positive.
- God-centered affirmation illuminates the character of God, which teaches our grandchildren and honors Him.
- When we affirm our grandchildren, God is glorified.
HOW DO WE AFFIRM?
- Make eye contact.
- Speak in a manner that is uplifting.
- Touch your grandchildren in ways that are appropriate, safe, and welcoming.
- Share stories, especially your stories.
- Draw them in to your exclusive grandparent/grandchild circle.
- Learn to be interrupted by your grandchildren. When we drop what we are doing for them, it demonstrates their importance and value.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD AFFIRMATIONS
Good affirmations are:
- Detached from correction. As a classroom teacher, I always heard that when meeting with a student’s parent it was best to begin with the positive. To look for something to commend the student for before hitting the parent with the negative (correction). That might be a way to “cushion” the correction, but it doesn’t work if affirmation is your aim. Corrections contaminate and weaken our affirmations, canceling them out.
- Ongoing. There must be a steady stream of affirmation. Our silence and random spurts do not refresh or motivate our grandchildren. They do not honor. Affirmation done correctly takes time. Plan it. Schedule it.
- Honest. Phony, false affirmations do not build up. Learn to be an observer of your grandchildren and offer truthful affirmations. Commend only the commendable.
- God-centered. Pay attention. Look for godly characteristics to commend. The purpose of our affirmations is to glorify God by refreshing and motivating our grandchildren as we go about discipling them.
The words we wield make a powerful impact on the lives of our grandchildren (and our adult children). If our longing is to build strong relationships with our grandchildren and to pass them a heritage of faith in Christ, we must be about the intentional business of Practicing God-centered Affirmation.