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Doing Life Together

ballet-1971600_1920Affirmation is powerful!

Katie walked off the ballet stage. Having danced her heart out, she came flying into my arms. Beaming like only a mother can, I reached down, kissed her and said, “You were beautiful, wonderful and of course, the best dancer on the stage. I am so proud to be your mom, not because your performance was terrific, which by the way it was, but because you were expressing the gift God gave you. He too is pleased. And using dance to express worship to God gives Him joy.”

As the words left my mouth, I was more than “just mom”. I was a woman of influence, shaping my daughter’s thoughts about herself.

As a therapist, I know how important it is for all of us to be affirmed. I know the power of parental words in a child’s life. We don’t “spoil” our children by praising them. We acknowledge the unique talents and gifts that God has given them and then encourage them to use those gifts for His glory. Parents are always positioned to be chief influencers of their children. When we misuse that influence, problems can erupt.

I’ve counseled many people who long for parental affirmations but never received them. Instead they were pushed to perfection, verbally assaulted, emotionally neglected, or privately shamed, resulting in years of insecurity, low self-esteem or struggles with addiction and eating disorders. They move from relationship to relationship, trying to recreate the “good mom or good dad” they desperately desired. Looking for external validation, they seek and occasionally find. But what is found is never enough because the need to please and be affirmed runs deep.

So how can you, a mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather, or professional person become someone of positive influence in a child’s life? Praise often. You can’t spoil a child when praise is honest and genuine. Children do not get big headed or become prideful because of praise, an argument I commonly hear in the church. But rather than only praising performance or success, learn this important principle described by author and apologist, Os Guinness, in his book, The Call. “The greatest deeds are done before an Audience of One, and that is enough.” Ultimately, the only important appraiser of our efforts is God.

If you had parents in your life who affirmed you, be thankful. If you are now in a position to be an affirmer, do so. But if you are one who still feels the sting of childhood hurt, there is hope. Someone wants to affirm you. He sees incredible potential and purpose in you. And His influence supercedes failed parenting. He is God and is calling you to Him. As you learn to please only Him, He will affirm and delight in you.

So when my daughter seeks my affirmation, I freely give it but my response is more than praise for a job well done. I am influencing her to think about who she is and who she will become. My heart is for her to know that she not only dances for me, but for that Audience of One. And if I fail a time or two in my affirmation, she will remain confident because she knows that her primary audience, that Audience of One, never fails to give her what she needs.

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