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Reaching the Other Kids
Prioritize affirmation and watch little lives change.

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Our country's children fall into one of three groups: 1) kids, 2) the other kids, and 3) those kids.

The word "kids" typically brings to mind familiar children—sons, daughters, other family members, friends' children, neighbors, or other young people you know or notice for good reasons. Maybe they're bright, talented, or involved in worthwhile activities. Whatever the reason, these youngsters populate the paradigm of Group 1 that most people possess.

Turn the dial to the other extreme and Group 3 appears—children in trouble, committing crimes, fighting until someone is seriously injured, or skipping school. Alcohol and drug problems. Sex and vandalism. Our society notices them. They scare a lot of folks. Group 3 is easy to picture; although when people actually catch a glimpse of this group they quickly look away.

But what about Group 2: the other kids? The kids no one knows well. The kids no one notices. The kids no one bothers to picture. Somewhere between Groups 1 and 3 stand kids most people never see. No attention comes their way for good reasons or bad. As a principal in Fort Collins, Colorado, said, "A troubling, and growing, number of kids quietly slip through the cracks."

And that's a problem.

Assuming that you work in, volunteer for, or attend a church, you can feel certain that you intersect with some of these "other kids," so please keep reading.

Jason is a second-grader who faces a challenging life that he did not choose. His school recommended him for a mentor. The two met weekly. They played a timed reading game that Jason enjoyed—and he especially liked the affirmation he heard each week. He told his mentor that the reason for his enthusiasm toward this activity was simple: "No one has ever told me I'm good at anything."

Jason made extraordinary progress in his reading skills. He is one clear example of a simple truth: Touch a child's heart and you unlock his ability to learn and thrive.

Oh, there are folks that read such a statement and immediately offer comments that it's wrong to build into a child's self esteem because it does damage to kids and makes them narcissistic, or warn that encouraging a kid is just a feel-good approach and is the cause of the egos-on-steroids "generation me." Over-lavished, over-praised, over-coddled, over-protected—that's how some describe the results to expect from affirmation.

So which of those descriptors fits Jason? Or the millions of "other kids" in our country considered at-risk because they lack, among other necessities, a reliable and loving adult relationship?

Kids often remain just one affirming adult voice away from doing well.

Parents are the obvious first-choice source of affirmation for children. Moms and dads: Keep it up! I'll try to resist the urge to shamelessly promote my book " Words Kids Need to Hear," which addresses this essential task.

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Topics:Restoration, Self image
Filters:Children's ministry, Children's pastor, Mentoring, Volunteer

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Pamila Roebuck

February 17, 2013  5:55am

Thank you for this article, Today I am a Pastor's wife, Sunday school teacher, Praise Leader and Youth Teacher. But before God grew me into all of these things I was one of the "Other Kids". Until I met a pastors wife named Betty Sue Carter I had never known adult encouragement or Love. My hearts desire is to be "Betty Sue" to all of the children God sends my way. Your article Blessed me and confirmed Gods plan to me in a greater light. :-}

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Linda Ranson Jacobs

February 08, 2013  12:00pm

Absolutely agree with everything you said. I work with children of divorce as well as educate children's church leaders. Most people just don't see these kids in group 2. I see them because I've learned to recognize them. Sometimes just a touch, a smile or like you said the opportunity to be noticed goes a long way. When they feel safe with you and recognize that you truly care, they will seek you out at every church event. The hugs, fist bumps and high fives are priceless. In our DC4K groups across the nation (dc4k.org) we see these kids every week. More importantly God sees them. He knows our hearts and He knows these kids need us to teach them about Him.

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