“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ,
who is the head of his body, the church.” —Ephesians 4:15, NLT
How Kids Think: Kids ask, “What am I really good at doing?“ Some children are accustomed to candy-coated compliments and praise for mediocre efforts. But they soon see through superficiality and learn to spot insincerity a mile away. Students need encouragement and positive feedback; yet they also need a genuine appraisal of their abilities.
God’s Wisdom: Children expect people to be honest with them and are disappointed when they discern otherwise. Many adults are disingenuous when it comes to “speaking the truth in love” to kids. We are overly concerned about hurting a child’s feelings or damaging his or her morale. This approach often backfires. Kids appreciate people who are frank and sincere with them.
Inventory a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Be candid and affirming as you build on his/her strengths and address weaknesses. When you point out a concern, be sure to provide encouraging solutions as well. Speak openly, but be careful not to exasperate or deflate him/her. As a result each student will value your assessment and greatly benefit from it.
True Story: Brittany understood the importance of intentional coaching. She decided it was time for her eight-year-old son to learn the art of conversing. She taught Jake how to greet others, ask questions, and share simple anecdotes. She encouraged Jake to practice “adult conversation” at home, at school, and at church.
One Sunday I greeted families outside the children’s wing. Jake ran up to me and asked, “Can I practice on you?” Having no idea what he was referring to, I looked at Brittany for help. She smiled and explained Jake’s new conversation project. I smiled and agreed to practice with him.
Jake greeted me using my name; then he asked, “How are you?” I smiled and responded with a brief explanation of why I was doing well. “What did you do this weekend?” I queried. After relating a quick story about a snowball fight and hot chocolate, Jake was at a loss. His puzzled face revealed that he had forgotten “what’s next.” Mom whispered, “Now it’s your turn to ask a question back.” Jake asked me a follow-up question about what I had done during my weekend. After a few simple exchanges, he ended the conversation with a chipper, “I’ll see you in the kid’s wing!” Then Jake ran off to play.
I applauded Brittany’s intentional efforts to train her son. She gave clear, helpful feedback as a parent and social coach. Her face registered joy and amusement. With continuous, honest coaching and encouragement, I was confident that Jake would become comfortable and adept when conversing with others!
What You Can Do:
- Inventory your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Be candid and affirming as you build on strengths and address weaknesses.
- Each time you point out a concern, be sure to provide encouraging solutions. Speak openly, but be careful not to exasperate or deflate your child. He/she will value your assessment and greatly benefit from it.
- Use the “sandwich” principle. Start with positive affirmation of a strength; then address the weak spot with clear ideas about how to improve. Finally, end with a second affirmation.