As parents, we are constantly talking to our kids. Maybe I should say “telling”. Telling them what to do, what not to do, what they should have done, how to do something or do it better. They hear from us—a lot.
It’s a big part of our job description as parents: instruction. Got to have it. Yet there’s another vital aspect of our communication that your child shouldn’t have to do without. It’s telling him how you feel about him, especially that you love him and are proud of him.
I had a better-than-average relationship with my dad. One Saturday night while in high school, I was getting ready to go to the big weekend dance at the 4H Community Building. I grew up in a small town in Iowa so you get the picture. It was really the only thing going on in town that night. Mom and Dad were getting ready to go to the local Elks Club for dinner and dancing as they did often.
As I was leaving, Dad said, “You never know—if things get boring at our dance, maybe we’ll come see you at yours!” I immediately said, “I hope you wouldn’t.” It seemed like the typical kind of thing that should be said.
He paused, then said, “Why? Would you be embarrassed of me?” I again spoke from reflex. “It would just be so weird if you guys showed up!”
Another pause. Then he said—a bit more serious, “If you walked into the Elks Club to see me, I’d be extremely proud.”
I fumbled something about how I didn’t mean it like that, blah, blah, blah. But it shook me to the core. He was right. He was proud of me. And I was of him. Sort of. But not like I should be. I changed that night.
Dad was good about telling me that he loved me and was proud of me. I didn’t always appreciate those words as much as I wished I would have.
A little over a year later, Dad was killed in a car accident.
I haven’t seen or talked with my dad for almost forty years now. But I hear him a lot. And it’s always, “I love you,” and, “I’m proud of you.”
I was fortunate to have saved a handful of notes he’d written me that year while at home and after I’d gone to college. In every one of them, I can find an “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you.”
They’ve carried me through almost forty years without him. Ultimately, it’s all I needed to know from him. He loved me and was proud of me.
Your child needs to know that about you. She needs to hear it. And hear it. Then hear it some more.
Here are just a few of the reasons why those two statements are so important:
- It gives your child a sense of belonging. These are bonding words. They come as a result of relationship.
It gives your child security. There are too many other voices in his world telling him he is not enough as he is. He needs to know from you that he is enough in your eyes.
It gives your child confidence. It’s a tough world out there. But when your child knows that she has someone in her corner, someone who believes in her, it empowers and emboldens her to pursue what she was created for even when things go sideways.
These words are part of our family culture even now that our “kids” are adults. We say them openly and freely. If it’s not second nature for you to say these things often to your child, consider these:
- Say, “I love you,” whenever you leave. Whether you are leaving the house, dropping them off at school, or even ending a phone call with them, say, “I love you.”
Say, “I’m proud of you,” independent of awards. If it’s said at all, we will usually say it when he’s won the big game, or got the trophy, or the 4.0 GPA, or some other accolade. That’s great. But your child needs to know you’re proud of him not just for what he does, but who he is.
Some might argue that saying these things so often may make them less meaningful. It won’t. Trust me.
Although your child may not always fully appreciate it, there will come a time when he will. He needs to hear it. Someday it may be the last time he hears it from your lips. But it will be indelibly stamped on his heart.
Question: Did you hear these words often enough from your parents growing up? Share your answer in the comments below.