A father's words are powerful - nuclear. Nuclear power can be destructive or life-giving. I often think about Proverbs 15:4 when talking to my kids.
"A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit."
My words can either soothe or crush my kids. Wow. Proverbs 18:21 says there is life and death in the power of the tongue and we will eat the fruit of our words (rotten or refreshing). I want my words to be soothing, refreshing, and life-giving to my kids.
God modeled the power of words towards His Son Jesus by saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). It's recorded twice in Scripture - once during Jesus' baptism before His public ministry and once during the Transfiguration before He went to the cross.
It's important to note that God proclaimed His unconditional affirming love for His Son before He did any ministry and before He died for the sins of the world. Why is this important? God loved His Son not just for what He did, but for Who He was. He said three things in these verses that should shape our parenting: "You are my Son, I Love You, and You please me."
"YOU ARE MY SON"
You are mine. That's my boy/girl! You're not an acquaintance, a friend, or just another person - you're my child. Not everyone is my son/daughter, but you are! I am honored to be your dad! Children need their dads (and moms) present and active, not distant and apathetic. They need to hear words that remind and reinforce your parent/child bond. Be proud to call them son and daughter at all times, not just when they do something well. Tell them, "I'm so proud to be your dad" when you're riding in the car or just sitting on the couch. God was proud to say Jesus was His Son before He healed, preached, or saved anyone!
"I LOVE YOU"
The most impactful words kids can hear from their dad are "I love you." God said it out loud - in the presence of His Son and others. We must do the same. Don't just assume they know you love them, remind them often. Do things for them. Take them places. Spend time with them. But don't forget to say often - every day - I love you. These words can encourage the burdened, empower the weary, and endear the lonely. Let them hear you say you love God, your spouse, others, and them! A loving man says, "I love you!" When your kids think about their dad, may the first thing they say is, "He loved me!"
"YOU PLEASE ME"
Children need to hear their dad say, "I'm proud of you." They need affirmation, admiration, and approval. They need to know you're just as proud of them when they make A's and C's, when they hit the home run, or if they never play ball. If you focus more on what they did wrong or how they disappointed you instead of all they have done right, you'll crush them. This doesn't mean you should withhold challenge, correction, or discipline. Just make sure you're not the kind of father they can never please. If what they do is never good enough for you, you are ultimately communicating who they are is never good enough. Look for ways to communicate how proud you are of them when they are improving at something, putting forth extra effort, and doing something nice for others. Let them overhear you bragging on them to others. Why not, out of the blue, just tell them "I'm proud to be your dad"?
If we as parents genuinely live out, "You are my son, I love you, and you please me," our children will live out the same in return.
Stephen Harrison is the former lead pastor of Family Church at White Hall. He is the lead pastor of The Summit Church Saline County.
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