My eighteen-year-old son and I sat at a window table of the roadside cafe, enjoying two juicy burgers. The room was filled with Danny’s fellow workers from the nearby truss-building company.
This wasn’t just any mother/son outing. I had taken Danny out to lunch to tell him something important. I needed to apologize to my son, and I wanted him to know I meant it.
I’d home schooled Danny since his third grade year. During his high school years, I’d lost my temper with him on a regular basis, scolding him to the point where his face would grow pink with frustration.
I knew this was not okay. I knew that I had wounded my son with my words and my attitude. I needed to ask him for forgiveness.
Have you found yourself needing to say something important to your child, but pride and fear get in your way?
Here are a few things we need to say to our kids regularly, no matter how hard it is:
1. “I’m sorry.”
God has given every parent authority over their children, but that authority is easily abused by means of impatience. When you fail your children — not if, but when — be quick to tell them you’re sorry for the pain you caused.
Even if years have gone by, do it. Nothing builds trust faster than a humble attitude of repentance.
I can’t help but wonder how many kids who grew up in Christian homes have either strayed from the faith or learned legalistic religion because Mom and Dad said they believed the gospel, but never once apologized to their children.
2. “Thank you.”
As parents, we can place high expectations on our children and require them to fulfill their responsibilities, yet neglect thanking them for their help.
If we don’t model an attitude of gratitude, how will they learn to appreciate the efforts of others?
We all like being thanked, and we tend to feel discouraged when our contributions are taken for granted. That’s true for our kids, too.
How about this: decide that there’s no such thing as a thankless task at your house. Develop a habit of expressing gratitude, even for required chores as they get completed.
3. “I’m proud of you.”
As you participate with God in shaping your child’s character, be sure to offer praise. Avoid the temptation to withhold words of affirmation in hopes of better performance on the part of your child.
Rather than offering only constructive criticism about how your daughter could improve her jump shot or your son could refine his trumpet solo, tell them what they did right.
Develop eyes to see their efforts and let them know you take pride in their accomplishments, even if their performance is not perfect.
This is critical, especially if your child’s love language happens to be words of affirmation.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. — Ephesians 6:1
I’m convinced that your relationship with your kids will blossom beautifully when you’re willing to say these three important things.
If this seems really hard to you, lean into Jesus for the help you need.
That day in the cafe, when I apologized to my son, I wasn’t sure how he’d respond.
Danny forgave me, complete with a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek in front of all his fellow workers. I was relieved and grateful for the grace he extended to me.
That moment was a turning point in our relationship. It was totally worth humbling myself.
How about you? What do you need to say to your son or daughter?