My husband and I have three kids. Every day, we tell them how much we love them, encourage them, and let them know how proud we are of them. We have also screwed up royally. Before I tell this story, I am asking you not to judge us, and also remember this was our first child, so we had no idea what we were doing.
We’ve all heard words are powerful, right? I’ve learned the hard way that the words spoken by a parent over a child can be the most impactful or the most detrimental. Of course, we all want our parents’ approval, or at least we did at one time. Jesus got the ultimate words of affirmation from His Dad:
Matthew 3:17 says, And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.”
God spoke these words over Jesus right after John the Baptist baptized him. Before Jesus went to the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted by Satan, before Jesus started preaching to the masses, and even before Jesus’ first miracle, God told Jesus he was loved, and God was proud of him. As a child, isn’t that what we all want to hear from our parents? Not because we did something to deserve the accolades, but simply because we are their child?
Back to our story: Isabelle was in kindergarten and brought home her first report card. Her report card is filled with E’s (excellent) and S’s (meets standards). We told her she did a good job with a caveat. We told her, “You can do better and bring the S’s up to E’s.” With that one statement (that doesn’t sound that bad, right?!), we did some damage to our daughter.
Isabelle is now 16, a sophomore in high school, and has never received anything below an A in her academic career. She is a brilliant and gifted student where academics and testing are easy for her. However, she has severe anxiety about getting a B. Seriously, a B, and that, my friends, is what our statement to her in kindergarten caused. One sentence, one phrase from her parents, and it literally has affected her life. I remember when she was in middle school, and I was sitting at a parent-teacher conference talking about Isabelle’s anxiety over grades, and her teacher said to me, “Kacie, I was half tempted to give her a B just so she can see it’s not the end of the world.”
After Isabelle’s teacher said that, the first word that popped into my head was the big ole F-bomb. Because I knew where the anxiety came from, and all I had to do was look in the mirror to find the source of the problem.
So now, I had to ask: how do I fix this? Actually, let’s not forget my husband, how do we fix this?
The first thing we had to do was repent to our daughter. Repentance seems like a scary biblical word, and while it is very much biblical (mentioned over 100 times in the Bible), it is not at all scary. In fact, when Jesus preaches for the very first time, the first word out of his mouth is repent.
Matthew 4:17 says, From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
If you look up repent in the dictionary, it’s going to say repent is a word for expressing sincere regret for doing something wrong. But repentance in the Bible is a little different. It means choosing to change direction, act a new way, turn towards God. Or simply stated, stop what you are doing because you know its wrong, and turn towards God with the intention of never doing it again. There is nothing more humbling as a parent than going to your child, saying you were wrong, and asking for forgiveness.
Soon after the teacher conference, we sat Isabelle down. We told her that what we said to her in kindergarten was wrong. We apologized, and we asked her to forgive us. Did it take away her anxiety completely? No, but she is more willing to come to us and talk about her fears. We are able to encourage her telling her no matter what grade she gets, we love her and are proud of her.
A good friend of ours gave us some great advice, even referring to the verse in Matthew 3:17 of God encouraging Jesus. Our friend said:
As parents, we need to tell our children who they are before anyone else. Just as God told Jesus who he was, his son, who he loves, and he is well pleased, that’s what we need to do for our kids too.
It’s up to me to tell my children who they are. I need to remind Belle that she is strong, smart, beautiful, an encourager, selfless, and above all, she is a daughter to the King Most High who loves her and is well pleased with her.
If you read this article and have a knot in the pit of your stomach, realizing your words might have hurt your child. It’s never too late to go to them and say you were wrong and ask for forgiveness. And while you’re at it, speak fresh words of love over them instead.