Mike Berry is raising strong, confident kids. Here’s what he’s telling them.
As much as I hate to admit it, I have made my children cry. It’s happened a handful of times over the past decade. It breaks my heart to see any of my children hurting, even more so when I’m the cause. Back when I was in college I swore I would never do that, but, as you know, life just doesn’t always work out the way you think it should, or will.
Mind you, there are times when my children are crying because they screwed up and needed to be punished. Their tears were warranted. But other times, I lost my temper or was distracted, or became too critical over something they were excited about. It’s a big responsibility to carry their tiny, fragile hearts in your hands. I’m learning that every day I’m a parent.
I remember driving along, several years ago, with my wife and my three youngest children. It was a spring day, the sun was high in the sky, it was warmer than usual, and we were headed to a graduation open house. For whatever reason, my wife and I were having a disagreement over something, and I muttered under my breath (or so I thought), “Well I guess I’m just a terrible person!” Almost instantly I heard sniffles and a moan from the back seat. It was my six-year-old daughter. She was crying. “I don’t think you’re terrible daddy,” she exclaimed. “I love you!”
With that, my heart sank to the deepest pit possible. I was crushed. I had made my little girl cry for no reason other than my foolish words. It was one of those moments where you realize, even as an adult, how much growing up you still have to do!
Word are powerful. I’m sure in your own life you know how true that statement is, because you’ve either witnessed their power, or made a choice with your words, that caused destruction. I’m learning just how closely our children watch us and how intently they listen to every word we say. If you think yours are not paying attention, think again. They are! And they are storing everything they see and hear in the vault of their heart!
That’s why it’s so important, as fathers, that we use our words to build our children up. The most important thing a father can do is invest in his children. One big way you invest is by being present in their lives. But a close second to that is encouragement. You and I must take every opportunity to encourage our children with words. Words without action are dead, so it’s important to back everything we say up with an action step. But it all begins with our words …
4 Things Our Kids Need To Hear From Us.
1. “I’m proud of you!” There’s nothing more powerful that an attaboy or an attagirl. In fact, when it comes to building their self-esteem, saying “I’m proud of you,” is like building a skyscraper in seconds. You cannot begin to imagine how much these words impact their little minds. A few days ago, I cupped my eight-year-old’s face in my hands, peered into his eyes, and told him, “I’m proud of you buddy!” A grin crossed his face from ear to ear, and his eyes lit up. I was moved but I was also convicted. I realized in that moment that I needed to make a point to say that to him, and all of my kids, more often than I do. Our children need to hear this from us.
2. “I love you!” We don’t say this enough. And often, we say it flippantly, as if it’s on a checklist. We need to say this to our children way more than we do. I’m pointing at myself by the way. “I love you” is one of those statements that needs to be backed up with action. In fact, it’s critical that we do so. Words can be cheap and used to the point that their depth is lost. So, let your kids know you love them in both word and action!
3. “I believe in you!” Much like building a skyscraper of self-esteem with “I’m proud of you,” letting our children know how much we believe in them also builds mountains of self-confidence. We live in a world that tears our children down everyday, and makes them believe that they will never succeed at anything. Unfortunately, they begin to believe this. A father’s belief in his children can change all of this.
You and I become a forcefield of sort, that surrounds and protects our children as they walk through a cold and broken world. My 12-year-old daughter likes to perform in musicals. In fact, she has been in six straight shows since September of 2013. She has a voice that could rival any you see on The Voice. But she keeps getting passed up for lead roles. It’s defeating. Our hearts break for her every time the list is posted and she’s in the ensemble. One of the things that we do routinely is let her know how much we believe in her. We tell her how talented she is and how we would have chosen her for a role. We’re not blowing sunshine in her ear. We’re realists and we never sugarcoat anything. But we let her know how much we believe in her. It makes a world of difference and has helped her to keep going in-spite of rejection.
4. “I’m in your corner!” If believing in your kids had a close cousin, “I’m in your corner” would be it. Through the ups and downs and defeating moments of life, our children need someone who’s on their side, even when everyone else walks away. Dads- this is where you and I come in. Your children and mine need us in their corner, believe in them, cheering for them, and lifting them up, even when the world tells them they’re not good enough. A strike out? Stand in their corner. A college rejection? Stand in their corner. A close friend stabs them in the back? Stand in their corner. They try something new and unknown? Stand in their corner. Let them know you are in their corner regardless of the curve balls life throws at them.
The influence of a father surpasses nearly every influence in this world. That’s why it’s so critical that we are involved in our children’s lives. But more than that—it’s critical that our children hear our voice of encouragement, belief, pride, and love!
It’s easy to get busy and lose sight of this. In fact, I go through times where I forget to speak words of encouragement and I justify it by thinking that my children already know. They do, but they need to hear it from me over and over again. Your children need to hear these words from you as well. So, what are you waiting for?