Proverbs 18:21 states that the power of life and death are in the tongue. This means that words matter, especially in the context of parenting.
As Christians, we can sometimes focus on the things we shouldn’t say — like refraining from cursing, lying, belittling, criticizing, etc. These are certainly good things to be mindful of in our speech as ambassadors of Christ, but what would happen if we took our faith a step further and intentionally spoke words of life, encouragement, and edification over our children?
When they see your godly example, they’ll be more likely to speak the life-giving words noted below to their peers, creating a culture of kindness and support wherever the Lord plants them.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION Words of affirmation can take various forms. We can acknowledge our children for their accomplishments and for who they are as individuals by affirming their character and personality traits. If we want them to know that becoming a man or woman of God holds more value than their performance and achievements, we must choose to speak words that convey that message.
It is also important to gauge the context in which your child prefers to receive such praise. Is it one-on-one, in small or large group settings, or in the written form? We recommend checking out these books by Gary Chapman — author of the renowned Love Languages books — if you’re interested in learning more about speaking words of affirmation to your child, teen, or even your adult child.
SCRIPTURE God’s Word has the power to transform people’s lives, even the lives of children. Sharing just the right verse for whatever they’re going through in life can truly make an impact — like for a spelling test they’re nervous about, a soccer game they are about to play, or waiting to hear college admission decisions.
To reference and recite Scripture that is relevant to your child, it is crucial that we as parents are engaged in soul keeping — nurturing our souls by consistently spending time reading the Bible and meditating on it.
Speaking life in this manner equates to speaking truth, and hearing such truthful words may not be a feel-good experience for your child; chastening and disciplining are naturally uncomfortable for us. However, as parents, it is our responsibility to communicate these words nonetheless, remembering in our hearts that God promises us that His words will always yield fruit, whether we see that fruit or not (Isaiah 55:11).
“For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” —Proverbs 3:12
OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS When someone asks you a question, they are showing interest in you and your life. I think we’ve all experienced that refreshing feeling when someone takes that kind of authentic interest in us.
Asking your child simple yet thought-provoking questions that begin with how, what, and why will not only show them that you care, but also open the door to discussions instead of one-word responses. According to a 2018 Harvard Business Review article titled The Surprising Power of Questions by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John:
“Asking a lot of questions unlocks learning and improves interpersonal bonding.”
Here are some open-ended question examples you can consider asking your child:
How can I pray for you?
What are you thankful for today?
What was the best part of your day?
What do you think about (fill in the blank)?
Tell me what happened at (fill in the blank).
This others-centered mentality is much needed in today’s society in which social media entices us to continually shine the spotlight on ourselves. Demonstrating genuine interest will help your child develop into an emotionally intelligent individual who is concerned about the well-being of others — like Jesus was during His time on earth.
As you take the time to reflect upon the three points above, pray and ask the Lord to help you develop in this area and give you the wisdom to speak the right words at the right time to your children. The words that come out of our mouths ultimately reveal what’s in our hearts; may our hearts and the hearts of our children mirror the tender heart of our Heavenly Father.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”—Psalm 19:14
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