The ABC’s of Nurturing

In my book Touching Hearts, Changing Lives I wrote an entire chapter about the importance of using nurturing in our teaching. This is something I believe in strongly and hope to impart to the teachers and parents I encounter daily.

In my book Touching Hearts, Changing Lives I wrote an entire chapter about the importance of using nurturing in our teaching. This is something I believe in strongly and hope to impart to the teachers and parents I encounter daily.

I hope this simple ABC acrostic will help you think about the ways you incorporate nurturing into the way you reach the children you teach.

Nurturing our students is as easy as A-B-C:

A – Accept all your learners as God made them. Each is a unique part of their classroom, church, and the kingdom.

B – Believe in your students. Many children have no one that simply believes in them. Church may be the only place where some kids find adults who think they are winners.

C – Celebrate birthdays and other special events. There are many ways to do this. The very fact that you know and acknowledge your students’ landmarks is a celebration in itself!

D – Develop relationships. Step outside the classroom door! If a student needs some special relationship-building time, you may want to prayerfully consider a home visit – or just taking the child out for ice cream. I have found that simply asking a child to accompany me on an errand builds a relationship.

E – Encourage effort. Look for more than the final outcome of your students’ attempts. Encourage them in the process of trying!

F – Find something to praise each child for each Sunday. When I mentioned this at a teacher’s convention, someone responded, “The only positive thing I can say about one of my students is, ‘I sure am glad you don’t go home with me!’” We laugh at this, but we may have experienced the same feeling about a child at some time. Pray about it, and don’t let yourself off the hook!

G – Give tokens of affection kids don’t have to earn. Kids love little touchable reminders of your affirmation. When my children were very little, a dear man used to stand at the door of the sanctuary and give each child a piece of hard candy from his pocket. He didn’t withhold the candy from a child who wiggled or didn’t sing. He just let each one know he was glad they were there. Years later, my kids still remember that Mr. Jim liked them and made them feel happy to be at church.

H – Have plenty of “certificates” on hand. Carry some index cards and a package of stickers with you. When kids do something for which you have been praying, show progress in an area, or simply need to know that you care, jot them a quick note and hand it to them as they leave that day.

I – Initiate conversations. Call students on the phone, stop them in the hallway, or most importantly, ask for their input when you are talking to another adult in their presence. (Check in with the parents before you ask to speak with a child on the phone).

J – Just say no. Provide firm and consistent limits to help children feel secure.

K – Kindly present the truth. Children need our honest feedback. Let children know when they are not meeting your expectations in a firm but kind manner.

L – Listen and laugh. Take the time to really attend to what a child has to say. Handle difficult situations with humor, and be careful to always laugh with kids – never at them.

M – Make your class a safe place. Banish put-down humor and sarcasm. Never let a child be the brunt of anyone else’s bad attitude.

N – Never underestimate your students’ potential. Remember, God has often used children to accomplish His purposes!

O – Offer yourself as a champion. Commit to being the person who always hopes, always perseveres, and always looks to the best interests of each of your students.

P – Point to God’s plan. Affirm that God has a plan for the life of each of your students. They need to know that the God of the universe has a design for their lives.

Q – Question children in ways that make them think. Even little ones don’t always need the easy answers. They will learn much more if you help them develop their own conclusions through effective questioning.

R – Respect children’s boundaries. Don’t make every issue a challenge to your authority. If a child is truly too tired, hungry, scared, or shy to do what you’ve asked, offer a respectful alternative that will work for both of you.

S – Stay on top of what’s going on in a child’s life. We live in a busy society and home visits may no longer be common, but they can be one of the most powerful ways of enhancing your ministry. You can quickly get a window into your students’ lives when you visit them at home.

T – Treasure the child. Take every opportunity to tell children how precious they are to God and to you. There are many thousands of ways to say how much you love a child. A love song I learned long ago to sing to my own children says it best: “I’m blessed to have you as a part of my life.”

U – Understand before assessing. Try to understand what is motivating a child before judging harshly. No child’s behavior occurs in a vacuum.

V – Value children in the same way Jesus did. Remember that the kingdom of heaven belongs not to the rich and famous but to “such as these.”

W – Wait. We live in the era of “hurry up.” Many of our frustrations could be eliminated if we just waited! Wait for a child to process your request; wait until that one last cotton ball is on the paper; wait until a child thinks of an answer; wait until “that phase” is over.

X – Exchange one of your plans for one of theirs. Sometimes flexibility can save the day!

Y – Yell only in encouragement. Save the shouts for baseball games and swim meets. Speak with a respectfully modulated voice during class.

Z – Zip your lips to criticism. Address problems as they arise. Never fall into the trap of criticizing children in or out of their presence.

As you can see through these ABCs, the overwhelming message to our children needs to be “I’m on your side.” Unconditional love and nurturing does not mean automatic approval for every choice our students make.

Quite the contrary – we want to encourage behavior that is consistent with our best beliefs about who the children are and who they can become in Jesus Christ.