Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don’t Underestimate Your Power as a Parent - Cheri Swalwell

This piece first appeared on

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).

From the time our kids were little, my husband and I decided that we would let them determine their own paths in life. We would encourage in the form of providing new activities within our budget, create positive experiences individually and as a family, and try to instill a “can-do" attitude. Ultimately, though, what they choose to pursue and to what degree they excel will be for them to decide. Whether they are passionate about athletics, music, creative arts, or something entirely different is ultimately in their hands.

As they get older, though, I fail to remember how much influence I still have on them. Even though their friends are becoming more important, they still look to my husband and me for approval and as a litmus test of sorts to gauge their progress.

Therefore, because I have been blessed to be a parent, I have to make sure I don’t grow lazy in the job of being my children’s biggest fan. Not in a superficial way that makes them think they can become whatever they want just by wishing it to happen, but with a steadfast love that stands behind them in whatever area they have chosen. It could look like driving them to various activities and staying to cheer them on instead of pointing out the few mistakes they made or sitting with my face in a Kindle or texting on my phone. It could mean staying up late for heart-to-heart talks, asking them where God is leading them while helping them list the pros and cons instead of giving them a lecture of “This is what I did,” or “This is what you should/shouldn’t do.” Or, it could mean taking the tough stance of refusing to let them quit when an activity becomes a challenge. Instead, I need to teach them to follow through and finish what they started, at least for that season.

While hearing life lessons and building our children up through encouragement is our God-given assignment, let’s not forget the importance of modeling what that looks like in our own lives. Do we complain about our “dead-end job” constantly or do we take steps to break out of labor that doesn’t fulfill us, and pursue instead a career that we have passion for? Do we give up on our goal of getting healthy and settle for a bag of potato chips in front of the TV because it’s easier, or get off the couch and try to surpass our own personal best? Words that aren’t backed up by actions won’t really mean much to our children long term.

Regardless of how it looks for my family (or yours), the most important lesson today is to remember the power of our words. A misspoken word here or there when tired, cranky, or stressed is easily forgiven, especially when the confidence you have in your children as individuals and their success, measured by their own standards, is expressed frequently. I want to be the constant that reminds my children perfection is not the goal, but rather always giving their best. I want to stress with them that they can achieve more than they think with a lot of hard work and investment in their passion. I think that is the best gift that we can give our children.

Just as we don’t expect perfection in our children, let’s not hold ourselves as parents to the unrealistic standard that we’ll always get it right 100% of the time. We should strive most of the time toward consistency in our message of, “I believe in you,” while showing our kids through steps in our own lives that we believe in ourselves as well.

Our children will have an extra edge over other kids who, for whatever reason, don’t have that stream of encouragement coming from the most influential people in their lives. As a bonus, while building up your own children, why not look for opportunities to pass some of that extra “can-do spirit” along to other kids in need? Your children are always watching, so they will see your example and might start looking for opportunities where they can pass it along too.

Think for a minute of what the world would look like if just one or two people passed on the gift of encouragement to a youth, a stranger, or someone important in their life. That world is definitely one in which I want to belong.

Cheri Swalwell describes herself as a Christ follower first and foremost, wife, mother, and avid reader. She has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including at and If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog or like her on Facebook.

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