Walking down a grocery store aisle, I passed a woman who was so angry with her little boy that she unleashed a stream of raging profanities at him, inches from his face.
He was maybe three years old.
Twenty years later, I still wonder if I should have said something to that frustrated mother.
Hopefully, those of us who love and follow Jesus aren’t generally given to screaming vulgarities at our children. However, just because we don’t use four-letter words at ear-piercing volume doesn’t mean we never curse our kids.
Christians can utter curses without realizing it –curses as damaging as profanity, if not worse.
So what’s a curse?
The theme of blessings versus curses is woven throughout Scripture, and both have to do with the power of our words.
When God created the world, he did so mostly by means of the spoken word. When God created humankind, he made us in his image.
One of the ways in which humans bear God’s image is that our words have tremendous power – power to create as well as the power to destroy.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:21
What we say matters. A lot. That’s why Jesus warned us about idle words (Matt. 12:36).
Words are not neutral. What we speak either serves to build others up, or tear them down. And a parent’s words pack more punch than words from just about anyone else.
Parents must be both careful and intentional in what they speak over their children —intentional to speak blessing, and careful not to speak curses.
So how could a Christian parent accidentally curse their child?
Here are some things to avoid (adapted from The Power of a Parent’s Words by H. Norman Wright):
1. Put-downs. Name-calling, sarcasm, mocking, or embarrassing your child is very hurtful. So is teasing. If teasing your kids is the main way you show them affection, ask God what’s really going on. That’s not healthy behavior.
2. Favoritism/comparison. If a parent favors one child over another, both children experience a curse –the curse of favoritism, which invites the envy of siblings, or the curse of feeling “less than.” Each child needs to know he or she is loved uniquely and unconditionally.
3. Negative destiny-shapers. “You’re lazy, just like your father!” Such comments shape your children’s destiny in a negative way. They’ll internalize and act out the message that’s been spoken over them.
4. Belittling and blaming. Don’t make light of your children’s feelings, ideas, and accomplishments, or be quick to point the finger of judgment when they make a mistake. Offer space for grace.
5. Condescending messages – if something is a big deal to your child, allow it to be a big deal to you. Avoid comments like, “You don’t have to feel afraid, silly!” That’s a discounting message.
6. Non-verbal curses: Frowning, silence, neglect, and conditional love can hurt as much as mean words. Be careful about the messages your face and body language convey.
Because of this principle of the power of parents’ words, I’m not a fan of onesies and kid’s T shirts with slogans like “Troublemaker” or “Spoiled Rotten.”
(Do we really want to speak rebellion or entitlement over our children?)
As passionate, intentional Christian parents, we immerse ourselves in the word of God. We listen to the Holy Spirit. We live differently than those around us.
Other parents might mindlessly provoke their kids, or dress them in a T shirt with a cute little curse on it, or even scream profanity at them.
Let’s be wiser than that. Let’s understand the power of our words.
Let’s bless, not curse, our children.