I often point out to my children, after hearing some tragic news story or event, how blessed we are. Even when we go through hard times ourselves, there is still so much that we can thank the Lord for. It really does make a huge impact on the temperament of the home. Make the words of Paul your mott “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

The Power of Words

The words that we speak to our children will largely impact the kind of children they will become and the character they will develop. The Bible tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).  Words are a very powerful tool in shaping our children. As parents, we can either use our words to build our children up or to tear them down. We can help move them down the right road or push them down the wrong road.

Let me give you an example of a typical comment you may hear in our home. First, I stop what I’m doing, kneel down so I can look directly into the child’s eyes, and say something like, “I just saw you pick up the toys that you got out. Do you know what a blessing that is to me? When you help like that, your little sisters and brothers see you, and then they want to help, too. What you just did was so responsible and diligent. I am so proud of the way you are a part of this team.” Now, some may think that I’m going a little overboard. But overboard about what? About instilling the importance of diligence?  Children love the genuine praise of their parents. You can see them beam as you praise them. (Of course, we should make sure most of our praise focuses on character and not on outward appearance, achievement, or some trait they cannot control.) This is a very important step in encouraging helpfulness. I attribute these “praise moments” as the most influential part of training my children to be helpful.

What about a child who struggles with being a “team member”? These children need extra amounts of praise, and sometimes discipline for their lack of cooperation. I try to look especially hard for small steps in the right direction and then just make a really big deal about it. You will be amazed at the difference it makes!

Another thing that works well, as you praise their efforts, is to point them out to the other children and later to their dad. Sometimes I stop and say, “Everybody come look at ______. She is doing such a great job washing dishes!” And then I may turn to the child and say, “I am so glad God gave you to us—you are a gift!”

A point to be made about the power of words is that you can completely change a person’s habits by speaking about him the way you wish he was. Not lying, mind you, but taking every tiny opportunity to speak in a positive direction. Sometimes, if a child is struggling with completing tasks in a timely manner, I will just say one day, “Wow, you are so fast! You really got that job done in a timely manner!” This instantly sparks the desire in that child to be more efficient in the future.

It’s all about expressing through various ways that your children are valuable, that they are an important part of your family, that they are significant. Everyone wants to feel like his existence is meaningful, and it is our job as parents to communicate that. The tendency is to wait until they are older to communicate such things, but that is a mistake.  We must begin at a very early age expressing our deepest appreciation and love to them.  I think, tragically, this is one of the missing elements of modern families. Because each member is involved in his or her own pursuits, there is little time for the members to feel like they belong together, working toward a common goal. They all have different friends, different schedules, different interests—is it any wonder so many families are struggling with rebellious, angry children?