“Would you stop being a brat?”
Against my better judgment, I turned slightly to see the recipient of such harsh words. A cute little boy, no more than two years old, sat quietly on a booster seat in a nice restaurant. The only infraction I could see was that he was looking around the room while his tired mama tried to make sense of the menu.
Only days before, a grandmother confided in me that her daughter-in-law frequently degrades her children, telling them they are stupid and won’t amount to anything, that she is uber-critical of what they try to accomplish.
Mark Holmen, in his book “Faith Begins at Home” tells of a horrendous fight his family had in the car on the way to church one Sunday, yet when they walked into church and the pastor asked how they were, they chorused, “We’re fine!” Holmen’s family was known as a strong Christian family, yet his dad was a closet alcoholic. As I look out over the families sitting in our church pews each Sunday, I’m struck by the fact that I have no clue of what secrets those children and their parents hold, that behind the smiling faces could be a world of hurt. I never know when the children I encounter every day may need, even crave someone to listen to them and care about them, someone to think they are worthy to exist on this earth.
Our kids, like anyone else, need encouragement. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” That applies to our children as well.
If I’m going to spread the fragrance of Jesus wherever I go, I need to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus took time for children. He blessed them and put his hands on them. If Jesus took time for the children, I need to as well.
How can you encourage the kids you encounter? You can:
- Give them a hug.
- Ask them what’s happening in school.
- Praise their efforts.
- Give them a special job to do.
- Ask them to help you do your job.
- Ask them how they would like you to pray for them in the coming week.
To be fair, that mama in the restaurant looked tired. I noticed that every table was filled with happy couples, but she sat alone with her small son. Where was Dad? Only the Lord knows the story of why she was alone on a Friday night in a nice restaurant with her child. My heart constricted with compassion for her. I prayed that God would give me the opportunity to encourage her and have the boldness to be a little “nosey.”
After we finished our meal, I approached her table with a smile. “How old is your child?” “Two,” she responded. “Two is such a wonderful age,” I said. “I don’t believe a word of that terrible two stuff. My daughters are in college now and I miss those years so much. We need to make the most of every moment we have with these precious ones.” The mom nodded, “They grow up so fast.”
That mom was no different than the rest of us. Every parent has good days and bad days.
How can you encourage the parents you know? You can:
- Ask them about their week.
- Show concern for what is happening in their family life.
- Send birthday cards, get well cards, thinking-of-you cards to different members of the family.
- Relate your struggles with your children to show they are not alone.
Make a pledge that this Sunday, you will make time to speak to a child, to show interest in their live and to show them they are important. The few moments you spend may just leave the lasting fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus in the life of that child that may eventually lead them to the Savior’s side.