Mama Monday: Be a Barnabas!

This week the Gentleness Challenge at the Women Living Well blog focused on our words. For an example of a mom who uses her words well and with gentleness, Michelle Duggar was used. While you may not agree with the Duggar's lifestyle or Biblical views, you have to admit that Michelle is one gentle mom! With all of those children I have yet to see her lose it. But apparently she wasn't always this way. Losing her temper and using harsh words with her children was something that she struggled with as well. One of their family rules now includes to praise your children ten times more than you correct them.

I definitely find myself falling into  "No" Mom mode more than "Yes" Mom mode, but living in a house of encouragement is so much more enjoyable and refreashing for everyone. I enjoy hearing my efforts praised, so why wouldn't my children? But creating an atmosphere of encouragement in your home is like everything else in motherhood, it takes practice and a change in mindset. Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Look for the Good. It's so easy to fall into the negativity trap that even finding things that we like about our children can be difficult. And if you're not careful it can start to look a lot like whining, "If only those kids would..." or "I just don't understand why they don't...". It is not our natural tendency to praise or encourage, which is probably why God had to command us to do it. Notice that God never has to command us to whine or complain! So change your thoughts and try to purposefully catch your children doing something right. Point it out to them. Make a big deal out of it: clap for them, let them eat from a special plate that night at dinner, etc. But most of all encourage them to be encouragers! Make a family game where you try to catch someone else being good or doing the right thing, then reward the encourager as much as the one who was caught.

2. Be Specific. When we think about encouragement or praise, it's usually something generic, like "Good job!" or "That's so sweet!" But next time expand on that so that your children know exactly what you are proud of them for. Instead of "Good job!" say, "Good job on putting your shoes up. You are really remebering the little things!" Instead of "That's so sweet!" say, "That's so sweet of you to play with your brother when you would rather be doing something else. I know he really appreciates it, and I do too!"

3. Use it to teach. Do you want your children to be kind, generous, loving? Then encourage them when you see them doing those things! Praise is a much more powerful motivator than being griped out. You can use encouragement to teach your children traits that you want them to have. For example, Chipette is a classic first-born perfectionist (just like her mom!). If something is the slightest bit difficult for her or she is afraid that she will fail, then she doesn't even attempt it (just like her mom!). We changed Chipette's math program in the middle of first grade last year. I felt like she wasn't being challenged enough since she's naturally good at math. The first week I was ready to throw in the towel. I even started looking around for a different math program to switch her to again. Every time I pulled out the new math book she would cry, complain, whine, the whole drama-filled child nine yards! But we stuck with it (lots of patient encouragement from me), and the first time she got an entire worksheet correct, then we had a big ceremony that night at dinner where Chipette received the "Thomas Edison Award for Persistence"! Guess who thinks she can do anything now, if she puts her mind too it? An entire lesson on persistence without yelling, threatening, or punishment, just using encouragement!

The more I'm involved in the Gentleness Challenge, the more I see a real transformation occurring in our family. And guess who it starts with...the mom! So now I encourage you to change your family, and change the world, using a lot of gentleness with an extra helping of encouragement.

Time to go encourage myself to do the dishes in the treehouse,


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