A few months ago, a video went viral featuring a father leading his daughter through a series of positive affirmations. The video was praised as adorable and powerful and has reached over 17 million views, but it hits on a principle that Christian parents everywhere can put in practice.
You see, this dad was really on to something. Whether or not he is a Christian, I don't know, but he knows that words have power!
One of the most important things we can do for our children is to teach them how to control their tongues. Everyone is familiar with the violent “NO” of a 1 year old child, or the incessant cry of “why?” that happens around 2-3. During these ages, children are just starting to form their ability to speak. Often times, it’s monkey-see, monkey-do.
The first thing we need to do is control our own tongues.
And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. James 3:4-5
The way we speak determines the course of our lives. If we speak sickness, we will reap sickness. If we speak lack, we will lack. And when our child sees us speaking these things, they will learn that it is OK to speak sickness and lack as well!
Seemingly harmless phrases like “I can’t do it,” or “I’m not big enough,” teach a child that they can say whatever they want and help will come. However, that is not the way it works with God!
Now I’m not saying you should rebuke your 4-year-old when they come to you upset about how difficult it is to write the letter “s”, but I am saying that, even from a young age, you can train your child to speak in a way that will speak life! Instead of saying “I can’t”, encourage your child to say, “This is hard, but I know I can do it if you help me.”
If you have ever had a 4-year-old, I’m sure you know this is easier said than done, but remember that monkey-see, monkey-do behavior? As you guard your own tongue and are consistent in not allowing your child to speak negatively about themselves or their abilities, they will learn that there is a right and a wrong way to speak about themselves.
And more important than just “fixing” the way your child speaks, is changing the way that they see themselves through what they say. The affirmations the father in the viral video referenced were great, but as Christians, we can make them even more powerful! Our affirmations are more than just positive thinking, they are the truth about what God says about us!
Not only did the dad in the video know the power of words, he knew that having his daughter understand who she is would mean even more than him just telling her who she is. When your child speaks the truth about who God says they are, they gain an understanding about who they are. That carries even more weight than when you tell them who they are.
To start teaching your child who they are in Christ, you can have your child say these phrases out loud. “I am a child of God.” (John 1:12-13) “I am loved.” (1 John 4:10) “I am smart.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) “I am kind and caring to others.” (Colossians 3:12) “I can be all God wants me to be” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Many of us who came to know the Lord as teenagers and adults had to rewire our tongues to stop speaking death and start speaking life. Imagine the difference your child could experience if they hid these words in their hearts --and spoke them out with their mouths-- from a young age! If just hearing that they are loved and smart can make a child grin, how much more if they believe it in their hearts and can say it out loud!
This week, listen to what your child says and ask yourself, "am I allowing my child to speak about themselves (or others) in a way that is contrary to the Word of God?" Start by helping them stop saying “I can’t,” or maybe start by making a short list of affirmations from the Word of God and have them say them before they leave for school or right before bedtime.
By training your child to control their tongue and speak the Word of God over their life, you are protecting their heart and mind. You are showing them that not only do you say that they are loved, but God says they are loved, valued, priceless, and a blessing. And God never changes His mind.