Words are powerful. Words spoken by parents to their children will help shape them. If we understand the power of our words then we can be more intentional in using them to foster health in our children. I suggest using these five statements on a regular basis with your child(ren):
1) “I am proud of you“- perhaps are kids need to hear this more on their failures than successes. They need to know that our love for them is not conditional based off performance. They need to be able to rest in the consistent grace of their parents.
2) “I am sorry“- our children are people who feel just like we do. We are probably quick to correct them and challenge them to be better but they need to see we are not perfect either. There are times we make mistakes and disappoint them. They need to see us own it and apologize to them. Not only does it set the example for our kids in being willing to apologize when we hurt them but it also shows them respect that we think enough about their feelings to apologize. Sometimes our kids need to hear they were right and we were wrong.
3) “Not everyone will like you“- our kids are special but not everyone will appreciate that. Some just won’t be interested in them and they need to be ok with that. The world should not revolve around our kids and we can’t reinforce their expectation that it does. Help your child not be self-absorbed.
4) “Keep trusting God and He will lead you.”- they need to know that following God is essential for their success in life. Of course words are only as powerful as our actions here. They need to see us trusting in the Lord in our decisions, modeling this for them. We don’t want to teach our children that relying on their own abilities and effort is the key to success. Helping them to become self- sufficient can lead to pride and neglect of God in their life.
5) “It’s okay- mistakes happen“- wiser parents than me have said they wish they would have been easier on their kids, especially in their mistakes. Our kids need to know that it’s ok to fail and that their value is not diminished. We don’t want to teach them to be perfectionists. It will wreck havoc on them and rob them of the joy of life. Let your kids fail and then help them see that it’s ok when they do.
A fascinating read is Justin Martyr’s First Apology (considered the first Christian Apologist after the apostles) written to Roman Emperor Antonius Pius in AD 150. Before you think this is a boring historical read, place yourself in Justin’s shoes (or sandals). Imagine writing a letter on behalf of millions of Christians to the most powerful person in the world at that time. This Emperor, who holds in his hand the power to stop the immense persecution taking place towards Christians at this time. Imagine the effort, the tears, the blood, the prayer you would put into this letter. Now read what the Emperor read from the pen of Justin Martyr:
Since you are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning, pay attention and listen to my address. If you are indeed followers of learning, it will be clear. We have not come to flatter you by this writing nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgment after an accurate and searching investigation. . . . As for us, no evil can be done to us unless we are convicted as evildoers or proved to be wicked men. You can kill us. But you cannot hurt us.
To avoid anyone thinking that this is an unreasonable and reckless declaration, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated. If these are substantiated, we should be justly punished. But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you to wrong blameless men because of evil rumors. If you did so, you would be harming yourselves in governing affairs by emotions rather than by intelligence. . . . It is our task, therefore, to provide to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings. . . . It is your business, when you hear us, to be good judges, as reason demands. If, when you have learned the truth, you do not do what is just, you will be without excuse before God.
You see quickly that Justin Martyr wanted to remind the Emperor who was really in charge. You don’t sense a desperate plea but a calm spirit. That is a sign of great trust in God. Justin writes his letter to the Emperor without fear or worry. He leaves the rest up to God.
Justin Martyr was eventually beheaded in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Justin had refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. He told the Prefect to do as he wished. Christians do not sacrifice to idols