Praising Kids (2)

Like all good southerners, I memorized the fruits of the spirit (Galations 5:22-23) via a silly song at summer camp. (And before I get too far into this: Please don’t click away if you aren’t religious.  I promise these are words that define good character regardless of who or whether you worship.)

“The fruit of the spirit’s not a waaaaaaaaatermelon (said while doing a squat – or a grand plie if you want to feel dancy and fancy about it – and holding your arms out to demonstrate the wideness of a watermelon), the fruit of the spirit’s not a waaaaaaaatermelon, if you want to be a waaaaaaatermelon – you might as well hear it, you can’t be a fruit of the spirit cause the fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”

You then go on to impersonate a banana, a kiwi, etc. etc.

Hi. Can you tell I was also a camp counselor? Dorky songs ARE MY JAM.

Anyway. I’ve been thinking about the Spirit and Fruit lately because my friend Becky over at the OKC moms blog wrote an awesome post on self esteem, body image, & what we should be showing our children.

“I compliment her daily, but instead of using words like “cute” and “adorable”, I’m making an effort to use words like kind and gentle.”

Just – yes.  So much yes.  My daughter is 16 months old and I am already finding myself stuck in a rut of saying, “good job!” and “that’s so sweet”.  I was a journalism major. I SHOULD BE BETTER AT VOCABULARY.

But truly, I want to be more intentional in my praise for my daughter’s behavior.  I want to build up her character and self esteem by cheering on specific things about her that I find beautiful.  She shows me each of these fruits, in her own way, every day.


Love – She shows this when she squeezes my neck when I pick her up from daycare.  And when she blows kisses to her grandparents.  And when she waves to perfect strangers everywhere we go.

Joy – She exudes joy in the way that only a child can.  We went to a new park to play after school recently and her eyes lit up when she saw it.  It was a precious moment of pure joy and I’m so glad to have experienced that with her.

Peace – I see this in her when I check on her at night.  She sleeps the peaceful slumber of someone who knows her needs are taken care of.  I pray I see this in her as she grows, that she isn’t one who is worried about too much – that she finds Peace in all things.

Patience – I don’t think anyone in the history of ever has described a toddler as patient.  HOWEVER. Toddler patience does exist when you adjust how you define patience. She is patient when she doesn’t fuss as I put her in her carseat, she is patient while she waits for me to pour her milk, she is patient as she waits for me to fix her dinner.

Kindness – I see this when I spy on her in her classroom and she is playing nicely with her friends.  And when we play at home and she eagerly hands me a teacup for a tea party.  She has such a kind soul – and I want her to know that.

Goodness – Goodness seems so broad, doesn’t it?  I’m trying to think of it in terms of active goodness.  As in, making the right choices when you really want to do something else.  I see this in G when we correct her behavior, I know she desperately wants to bang her hammer against the wall, but she doesn’t because she has been asked not to.  That is goodness.

Faithfulness – I think it takes having a child to fully understand what “faith of a child” means.  She is faithful to her daddy and I every day.  She has faith in us that we will feed her and clothe her and love her.  She does not waver in this.  I so hope that she remains steadfast in her faith in us and in the Lord.  I hope also that she has faith in her friends, and teachers, and other family members.  Because this faith holds people to a high standard.

Gentleness – This word and “toddler” don’t exactly go hand in hand.  Most of what she does is, um, with GUSTO.  However, I can, and will, celebrate her and praise her gentleness when she hands me her cup when its empty instead of throwing it. Or when she (finally) lets go of my hair when I’ve asked her to.

Self-Control – Ah, self control.  Isn’t this the biggest thing we are trying to teach our toddlers?  When it’s okay to throw something (ball at basketball hoop) and when it’s not (wooden mallet at my head).  We work on this daily but right now her biggest act of self control is walking us straight out of school every day.  I know she’s curious about the other hallways there but she knows where we are to go, and it is just the one way out the door.

What words do you use to praise your children? Do you get stuck in “praise ruts” too?




6 thoughts on “The Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Waaaatermelon

  1. Lori Boutelle

    This is so good! I so often say “sweet” & “cute” and while my daughters are definitely those things I love the idea of praising more about them & using words that draw them back to truth. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Claire Miller

      I love that song from Kanakuk! Brings back memories. What a great truth to be teaching our little ones !

  2. Bev Barger

    This is so important! when we praise the students, be specific about what you are praising them on. too general and it is not important and they will tune you out. They need to know what exactly you are praising them for! Super article…. no, I like all the specific words with all the examples! luv u!!!!

  3. Haley

    I love this!! I am all about praising when it is earned and my vocabulary that I use for it is SO limited for an English major, for anyone! Love choosing specific values and words to point out and encourage the kids good behavior.

    Thank you!
    <3 Haley @

  4. Elaine

    I love, love, love this post! I need to print out the Fruits of the Spirit, hang them on my fridge and praise my girls daily! Thank you for sharing!

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