Build Them Up While They’re Home

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell

build them up, bless your kids, encourage your kids, parenting adult children, parent older children

One day, when our kids were younger, we gave each of them a tube of toothpaste and a paper plate. We had them squeeze all of the toothpaste they could out onto the plate. Then we told them we would give $100 to the one who could put all of the toothpaste back in their tube. They looked at us with big eyes, as the fruitlessness of the situation quickly became apparent to them. Words are like toothpaste. Once they are out, you cannot put them back.

We referred to that little experiment multiple times while the kids were growing up. It is a compelling word picture about the power and permanence of our words.

When I was in high school, my mom gave me a book called Balcony People. It was written in 1984 (and updated in 1989) by Joyce Landorf Heatherly. In it, Ms. Heatherly describes two types of people:  those who are positive – encouraging you and cheering you on (balcony people) and those who are negative – tearing you down and discouraging you (basement people).  This book is an oldie but a goody, and it was life-changing for me. In a nutshell, Balcony People are the ones who energize you with their belief in you.  They see and encourage your potential, and they delight in you.  Basement People do the opposite.

Parenting adult children is tricky, to say the least.  It is so easy to slip back into parenting mode and give advice. I’ve found that parenting adult children is mostly about learning to hold your tongue until they invite you into their lives and ask for your input. When you do speak, make your words count. Honor and bless them for who they are and what you see that is praise-worthy in their lives. As I’ve shared before, this may involve lots of smiling, nodding, and use of phrases like, “that’s so interesting,” “huh!”, and of course, the old standby, “well okay then, there you go!”

In their book, The Blessings: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, authors John Trent and Gary Smalley make the case that children of every age long for unconditional love and approval from their parents. The essential elements of this life-changing “gift” include meaningful touch, a spoken message, attaching high value, picturing a special future, and an active commitment.

As our loved ones are together this holiday season, let’s stand in the balcony and cheer them on – blessing, edifying and exhorting them with our words and serving them with our actions. They’ll be home such a short while, and I know you’re just like me – your heart’s desire is to bless them in a meaningful way that builds them up before you have to send them out of the nest again.

“For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

Let’s be careful when we squeeze our toothpaste tube.  Know that I’ll be in your balcony, cheering you on.  We’re in it together!






Resources to Help You Build Them Up

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Suzy Mighell

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  1. A lovely blog, such true wise words.
    I am off to my retreat, ‘women facing change’ , tomorrow. You might remember I mentioned it. Quite exciting as not sure what to expect. I hope the life coach will be as good and inspirational as you!
    If you hold a course I will fly to the USA! Food for thought!

    1. OH my word, sweet Carole! That is so sweet of you to say. I’ll let you know on that one! I hope your retreat is wonderful and refreshing for your soul. I can’t wait to hear about it! Hugs to you, Suzy

  2. Such truth here! Love the idea of “balcony people” vs “basement people”! I will look for that book 🙂

  3. I just “discovered” you while browsing Instagram, and then quickly followed you once I saw your niche! I’m 42, and I’m always looking for someone who’s a little further ahead in the journey for wisdom and wit. What a wonderful person you seem to be. I’m excited to have stumbled upon your blog! I entered your Nordstrom card giveaway too – fingers crossed!!!

  4. Thank you for your wise words Suzy. I found your blog while looking for help at a helpless empty nester moment. I’m wondering what to do when an adult child is seeking affirmation for a decision we parents don’t agree with. My husband and I do try to bite our tongues and be balcony people at all times, but when our 26 year old daughter announced she wants to move in with a young man she has only known a few months, we were shocked and couldn’t hold back our dismay. We live overseas and she says we are trying to control her life from across the ocean. Is silence and prayer (which we’ve been doing a lot of) our only option?

    1. Chris,
      I’m so glad you reached out to me. I can hear the pain in your writing. I am so sorry. What you’ve described is one of the most painful things a parent can experience. I’m not an expert on this subject, for sure, but I have heard people recommend a book by the late Ruth Bell Graham called “Prodigals and Those Who Love Them” ( Two of her five kids were prodigals. You might want to check it out. I think as parents it’s important that we are clear with our kids when we don’t approve of their choices and that we are also clear as to why. Beyond that, there’s not much we can do, and nagging certainly doesn’t help! Sometimes when I have something difficult to say to my kids, I tell them, “It’s important to me that you understand fully and completely what I think of what you’re doing and why. I’m going to tell you one time, and I’m going to be thorough because as your parent, I need to know that I’ve made my thoughts clear to you. After that, you will do whatever you are going to do, and just like with all decisions, your choice will have consequences. But I will not continue to repeat myself to you and my love for you will not change.”
      I hope that helps, even a little bit, Chris. Please know that I’ll be praying for you and your situation. xoxo Suzy

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