As I put J down for a nap today, I snuggled close to her and whispered in her ear a little ritual we do often. "I love your smile. I love your giggle. I love your love of life. I love your expressions. I love how you capture attention. I love your ability to entertain any time any where. I love your wit. I love your one liners. I love how you make me laugh. I love how you love. I love your passion. I love how you play a crowd. I love to watch you dance. I love your chocolate eyes. I love you. From the top of your hair to the tip of your toes." With each encouraging word her body relaxed, her breathing evened out, her smile grew big, and she snuggled closer to me. She responded physically and emotionally. All of my kids do the same thing. When you begin to tell them all that you love about them, their heart and eyes latch on and their heart and body respond to words of life pouring into them.
Just as they respond wholly to words of encouragement, all of my children respond physically to yelling. They get tense, move farther away physically, eyes downcast, fear in their eyes. Yes they know I would never hurt them physically, yet their affect shows their emotional pain. C is the most dramatic physically. He cowers. If I begin to yell he hides or runs or will get into a ball or cover his ears. I rarely yell at C. As soon as I begin and he acts like I have physically beat him, I immediately check my voice and usually whisper a much better response. His response is extreme, but it shows exactly what all children feel when they hear yelling and criticism. While I am saddened that I ever yell at C, I appreciate his extreme response because it is a grave reminder of how damaging that habit can be.
In the same way, C responds the most physically when receiving words of affirmation. Each word of encouragement calms him, fills his soul, encourages his heart, and breathes life into his precious being. Seeing this response is a physical reminder to fill their hearts with words of encouragement. Research shows that children need 13 affirmations per 1 negative comment, correction, or criticism. 13 to 1!!! Oh, how backwards things are here all too often. I am deepening my commitment to speak words that encourage and affirm, telling these precious three children in my life what I really think about them. That they are fantastic, amazing, talented, intelligent, loved, cherished, and mine!
I want to speak life, not judgment. Encouragement not criticism. This is an area of my life that I struggle with daily, but I will not give in. I will fight my flesh everyday to speak life.