Youth Ministry/Teens

How to Build Up Your Family Members

Drs. Rodney and Nancy Dean

The home needs to be a safe place to “brag on each other.”

In other words, verbally support each other.

The home is a place where, because of our committed love for each other, we should feel free to build up each other and rejoice with each other’s accomplishments.

Parents can model this by speaking well of each other’s work. “Your mother sure is beautiful!” or “Your father did such a beautiful job on the front yard, did you all see it?”

If parents are filled with resentment for each other and withhold affirmations, how can we expect it to become a norm in the home?

A powerful exercise I give to parents who come to me for family therapy is…

  1. Write down a list of 20 character traits you would like for your children to have. This list might include anything from being “strong in faith” to being punctual, kind or dependable. Keep this list posted somewhere in front of you – in your Bible, on your bedroom mirror, etc.
  2. Next, watch for any semblance of these traits in your children. The key is to recognize that trait and commend your child for it as soon as possible. For example, let’s say “thoughtfulness” was on your list of desired character traits. If your son offered to help you carry in some of the groceries that day, you reinforce his traits of thoughtfulness by spotting it and telling him how much you appreciate him being a thoughtful person.
  3. Additionally, a very fruitful way of increasing bonding and building this concept into children’s self-image is to compliment them in front of their significant others, their family. Brag on them in the presence of those who love them, “You should have seen the thoughtfulness in our son today. He picked up the sacks of groceries and had them all in the house before I could even ask for help.”

As it has been said, we “get more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

I believe positive reinforcement of desired traits is ten times more effective than correction times, which are also necessary.


Condensed and adapted from Building Family Values: Using the Tools of Bonding and Boundaries by Rodney and Nancy Dean.

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