| from Sherri Seligson |

I remember one day when my 3-year-old daughter brought me a picture she drew. She had spent the afternoon working very hard on it and when she finished, she proudly brought it to me.

Looking at it carefully, I tipped it back and forth, noticing crayon-scrawled shapes intentionally placed in certain spots on the paper. But no matter how hard I studied it, I just couldn’t figure out what it was. Now, I could have said something like, “It’s pretty, honey,” and gone back to what I was doing. Yet I realized this was not just a small piece of art. She really took her time with this, and what I said next would be important.

Thankfully, I felt prompted to take some time to comment about the lovely choice of colors and fine details. I asked her what it was, and after she explained it, I looked for any positive character traits I could praise instead of just saying, “That’s nice!”

I started by encouraging her hard work and perseverance to complete something she started, her creativity to use different colors and shapes, and her desire to share her work with others.

Our words matter.

Did you know we wield a powerful weapon with them? Proverbs 10:11 says The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, and Proverbs 16:24 says Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. With our words, we can build up our children or we can easily tear them down. That’s sobering, isn’t it?

You see, when we speak with kindness we provide refreshment to others. We empower them. We fill them up. Righteous words build up and are satisfying, but careless words can tear down and are empty.

So when you sincerely praise your children, they rise to the occasion. For example, praising a character trait of hard work empowers your child to work diligently even more.

Full transparency here…I didn’t always think before I spoke to my children. Life was busy and I often had several things on my mind at once. It was definitely easier to just say, “That’s great, honey,” and go on to the next thing. But careless words can be dangerous. I regularly needed reminders that using uplifting words was a Biblical principle carrying tangible benefits for my family. Edifying words don’t just make my children feel good; I’m being a light in a world that’s filled with darkness. I’m speaking refreshment to my family and filling them with joy.

So actively look for opportunities to encourage your children. I definitely know it’s so much easier to find problems, and we can fall into criticizing so often that we forget to speak uplifting, life-giving words.

Commend your children for being selfless when they share, for deferring to the younger sibling who might not understand that there was only one cookie left, for telling the truth even though they know there could be consequences.

And don’t stop doing this when they’re older. Teens need to be encouraged, too. Encourage your daughter when you see her working hard to complete a school assignment. Be supportive when your son is struggling with a friendship. Ask them questions. However, don’t be quick to solve their problems for them. Instead, ask what they plan to do. Make it a conversation to help them sort out what is challenging them, then give them encouragement (again look for character qualities) by speaking truthful things about their hard-work ethic, loyalty to others, selflessness, or other traits. Then they will be more likely to ask for input in the future, and they know they will be built up instead of brought down.

Words are important. How can you speak encouragement to your child today?

Sherri Seligson is a 21-year veteran homeschool mom and marine biologist. She has authored Apologia’s Exploring Creation Science Curriculum, Instructional Science Video Series, and many other publications. An international conference speaker, Sherri encourages moms and teaches families the value of studying God’s creation. You can connect with Sherri at www.sherriseligson.com.