Affirmation may be one of the greatest tools we have as parents. Maybe even THE greatest tool for directing the character development of our children. Recently, a father shared with me the amazing effect affirmation and praise had on his four young sons. He told about praying for them individually at mealtime. In his prayer, he gave thanks for a godly characteristic he observed in each one. Even in the midst of some boy giggles, they heard their names and the specific quality their father rejoiced over. This father was amazed at how his boys responded to the praise they heard. During the day each of his sons wanted to show Dad that the praises were true. They each demonstrated the specific characteristic he praised them for, even verbalized to him so he wouldn’t miss it.

Here is part of the written message I received from this father:

“It is amazing to see how my boys respond to praise. I tried it out this morning and prayed over our meal and thanked God for each of them in a very specific way. Then throughout the day all four of them displayed more of the characteristic that I had praised in them that morning.
I prayed for 9-year-old W for his strength in caring for others. Afterward, he asked if he could help care for and watch his little sister that afternoon.
I thanked God for 7-year-old B’s love of creativity. Later, he got out his beginner drawing books and practiced.
I acknowledged 5-year-old H’s intelligence/tinkering ability. He pulled out snap circuits to show me a circuit board he loves to make.
I thanked God for 3-year-old T’s bravery. That afternoon, he jumped on the slack line in our backyard to show me that he could get across all by himself.
My focus should be love and praise regularly with direct discipline and to give them a guiding aim for their life and abilities God gives them. I pray that my boys know their aim is the good king and his kingdom.”

We all know what affirmation is and desire to receive it. Because of its appeal, affirmation can be a powerful agent for growth and change. Consider building (or increasing) these actions into your daily parenting:

• Point out specific qualities observed in your child.
• Give thanks to God for his work in the life of the child, praying out loud in their presence.
• List the benefits and blessings received by others from the qualities your child possesses.
• Capture the time before meals or when they crawl into bed for the night to pray for them in specific ways.
• Give testimony to the ongoing work of God.

This parenting tool is not new! The Apostle Paul parented his spiritual children in the early churches with an abundance of affirmation. See Philippians 1:6 and Colossians 1:3-8