Recently, my middle school son has begun to volunteer at our church in the preschool areas. He has been assigned to the 3-year-old room, and has proven to be a real all-star in that environment. This son of mine, is entering a stage of life where he is looking for affirmation, and needs to feel that he is accepted for who he his. As he has served the 3 year olds at our church, he has also been surrounded by adults that marvel at his heart for the little ones. They've said things to him like, “You are so great with these kids, I wish there were more middle schoolers like you!’ and “Have you seen the way these kids look at you? You are their hero just by coming and playing with us!”
Those words on their own are powerful, but I have leveraged them in a few distinct ways. First, I knew my son would succeed in that area. I’m his father, and I know his strengths. Helping him find a place to serve 3 year olds was better than if I had asked him to go work with 3rd graders. I also set him up for success by choosing an environment that would bring out the best in him, and therefore bring out the words of affirmation in others. Then, I made sure that the he fully understood what those people were telling him. I helped him to see that those friends were sharing what they saw in his life, and they weren't making it up. I reminded him that his mother and I have seen those things in his life, and have told him those same things as well.
It is experiences like this that allow me to say what I’ve always said to my son, “You are special, unique, and God is going to use you to do great things for the world all around you!” and to put those words into the mouths of others. With your child you have the ability to find areas where they can win consistently, and then leverage the situation to say what you’ve been saying all along.
Maybe it’s an art class at the community center, or working alongside others at a local food bank, or volunteering at your church. Maybe it’s allowing them to play a sport that they excel at a little more than the other kids, or spending some time after school with a club that will help draw out some of these other talents they have inside of them.
So much of leveraging the words of others in the lives of our children, has to do with us being intentional as parents. When we leverage the words they hear, we are helping to shape them into the people God wants them to be. However, this doesn't happen by accident. This happens when we listen for the voices, and surround our children with the right voices.