A few years ago I was speaking to a group of high school students at my house. In the middle of my time with them, my wife and kids got back home, so I went through each one of them to introduce them to the students.
I started with my oldest and worked down to my youngest. With each one, I talked about their name, why we gave them their name, and a little bit about them. My kids giggled with excitement as I talked about them, but the reaction of the students is what surprised me the most.
You see, as I got beyond the superficial characteristics of each child and began talking about my deep love for them, the students began to be visibly shaken by it. And I’m not just talking about the girls, but the guys as well. After noticing their reactions to my words, I asked them, “Do you wish your parents said this about you?” They all sheepishly shook their heads, yes.
So to sum up what I said about my kids that day, and what I say to them regularly, here it is:
1. You are my son/daughter. This states ownership on my part, and identity on theirs. It gives them a place to belong, in my family. This is the foundational statement on which the other two phrases are built.
2. I love you. This is one of those phrases I don’t think I can say enough. This tells my kids I accept them as they are. My boys are finally to the age where they randomly say to me, “I love you, dad”. I treasure those unprompted comments from them.
3. I am proud of you. My pride in them is not because of performance, but because they are mine. I regularly ask my oldest, “Do you know why I am proud of you?” He always looks me back in the eyes, smiles, and proudly says, “Because I’m your son.” Occasionally, he’ll say he doesn’t remember why I’m proud of him. I don’t mind when he does that. It’s his way of telling me he needs to hear it from me again.
Where did I get this? From the example God set for us as Father. At the baptism of Jesus, before He had done anything of significance in His earthly ministry, God says in Matthew 3:17:
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Again, Jesus hadn’t done anything at this point to earn it. God was claiming Him as His own. Because of his sonship, God loved him and was proud of him.
These words are powerful. Don’t believe me? Try them on your kids. Now remember, if you have gone some time without telling them this, you might feel weird or out of place. Let me encourage you to push through it. It’s worth it.
Do you tell your kids this regularly? What else do you tell them? Is there anything else you see that strikes a chord in them when you say it?