Benjamin sat thinking when his son walked in. They had a huge fight and the tension was still in the air. He wasn’t sure what to say so he asked his son about a girl. His son opened up and told his dad how confusing relationships with girls can be. Benjamin looked at his son and smiled. “I like when you talk,” he said. His son turned to him and replied, “I never know what to say to you.” That’s when Benjamin got a great idea. He told his son, “Why don’t we just say what we wished the other person would say?”
I thought that was a brilliant question from the character Benjamin in the movie We Bought a Zoo. Have you ever thought about asking your kids what they wished you would say more often? What do you think they would say? Try it. There are some positive things to say to kids that can make your relationship a lot closer. In the meantime, I made a list of things dads have said that made an impact on their kids. Here are 5 things your kids wished you said more often.
1. “I’m a fan of yours.”
My dad traveled for work. He would be gone for weeks at a time. One of my greatest memories from high school is when I would see him on the sidelines watching my practice. He would show up after being gone on a long trip. It was one of the first things he did when he arrived home. It was communicating that he was a fan of mine. Who else would sit and watch a three-hour practice? It made me feel loved. Tell your kids that you are their fan, with your words and your actions.
2. “You have a lot to offer.”
Each person is uniquely made with talents and abilities all our own. Unfortunately, in our culture, some talents garner more attention and money, making them seem more important. They aren’t. We need to know that and so do our kids. The Apostle Paul talks about there being many parts to one body and none of them are more important. In 1 Corinthians 12, he says, “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” You and your kids were designed for a wonderful purpose.
3. “How are you doing?”
I hear this question a lot, but most people use it as a salutation instead of a real question. One of the most positive things to say to kids is inquiring how they’re feeling. Last week, a co-worker asked me how I was doing. When I told her I was tired, she responded by asking, “Is that it or is there something else going on?” The reality is I felt down and didn’t even know why. She said she could tell. She was paying attention and showed she cared. Novelist Brad Meltzer is credited with saying, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Our kids fight daily battles and they need to know we are walking with them in it.If we want our kids to do the right thing we need to model the right thing.
4. “I’m sorry.”
If you’re like me, you constantly point out your kid’s bad behavior. Then we want them to do the right things, by admitting wrong, saying sorry, and potentially asking for forgiveness if they have caused hurt. If we want our kids to do the right thing we need to model the right thing. Showing our kids what it looks like to make things right after we have messed up is way more powerful than telling them. Take full advantage of your mistakes by saying you’re sorry, especially when the wrong you committed affects your kids.
5. “I believe in you.”
If you were going to start a movement, you would probably recruit the best of the best. You’d want brilliant people who are great communicators and have infectious personalities. Those descriptions typically don’t include fishermen and tax collectors, especially in Jesus’ day. But these are the people Jesus chose. (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 2:13-17) He knew their potential and believed in their faithfulness. He believes in us and our kids too. We just need to entrust our lives to him and he can do something extraordinary. Our kids need to know that we believe in them, the same way God does.
Sound off: What are some other positive things to say to kids?