Axel lay on the floor, his math page in front of him, fat pencils and a thick eraser spread around him like a horseshoe. But instead of working out the equations, his face was buried into the carpet. “I can’t do this!” he insisted, kicking his toes into the floor.
At the age of ten, he was discouraged.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Not only was Axel discouraged, but so was I. Perhaps the most frustrating thing was that I knew he could do that math. He just had to overcome the negative way he was thinking about his homework—and himself. I just didn’t know how to help him overcome it.
Every parent has dreams for their children. We hope that our children grow up to be happy, healthy, and have meaningful relationships. We don’t want them to feel discouraged. As Christian parents, we define hope as something we experience because of Jesus Christ. Like Hebrews 6:19 says, hope is an anchor that helps us get through hard times.
But hope is not just about our faith. It’s also about how your child thinks. It’s a style of thinking—a way of developing vision and motivation.
In the 1990s, a positive psychologist named C.R. Snyder developed hope theory, which helps people visualize goals and move toward them. Snyder believed that hope could be taught to others, even when they were deeply discouraged.
Think about that for a moment. You can raise a hopeful child, no matter what their circumstances. Not only can you teach your child about hope in Jesus; you can teach them how to think and behave hopefully.
What did Axel need in that moment? He needed to do his homework, yes. But he needed something more—something foundational that would carry him through moments of discouragement. He needed to think differently about what he could do, and he needed to develop the inner motivation to get it done.
There’s one powerful tool that helps to establish this foundation. It’s hopeful language, which is how you speak to your child, and how you teach your child to speak. Language is evidence of what your child is thinking. But it is also a method of changing his thinking. The language we hear changes the way we think, feel, and behave—either for the positive or for the negative.
Have you ever had a moment with your child like the moment I had with Axel? It can feel overwhelming and frustrating. Mama, let me give you hope today. I learned to change my language to be more hopeful. You can, too.
Over the next two months, I’ll discuss seven simple tools to help your child increase hope—tools to help you feel more hopeful about your parenting. You’ll learn what hopeful language sounds like for each tool.
When hopeful vision and motivation is combined with faith in Jesus, your child is on the right path to overcome life’s challenges. (Even math homework!) Hope is indeed the anchor for your child’s soul.
Stay tuned for part two of Seven Simple Tools for Raising Hopeful Kids, to appear March 2019 on The Christian Mommy.