Note to all Fathers: Your words will strengthen or crush your children. Even when you think they are not listening or paying attention. . . they are. Children are smart and impressionable.
I wrote the below article over eight years ago for an online website that appears to no longer be active. It was a voluntary submission for the Next Generation Institute’s Dad’s Only blog.
The thought of Father’s Day weighed heavy on my heart today as I was reminded of how vital loving dads are to the spiritual and emotional well-being of children.
When Daddy says, “You can do it, Son. You can do it.” I feel like I can conquer the world. An inner strength wells up inside me. It encourages me to keep pressing forward to complete what I started.
- But, when Daddy says, “Why did you wimp out? Now everyone thinks you’re a loser.” The condemnation spirals deep into my gut and makes me feel really bad that I let my dad down. It makes me sad and humiliated even though I did my best. Now I know my best wasn’t good enough.
When Daddy says, “That’s great. You did amazing. I am so proud of you.” I feel like a skyscraper standing strong and tall. Holding my head high, I know my dad is proud of me even if I did miss the final free-throw shot that made my basketball team lose the game. My daddy still thinks I’m great.
- But, when Daddy says, “You didn’t even try. What were you thinking? You looked silly out on that basketball court.” My heart breaks. I love my daddy and I want to please him, but I know he is ashamed of me. Maybe I shouldn’t play after all. I don’t want to embarrass him. He doesn’t think I’m very good anyway.
When Daddy says, “You’re so smart. Did you know I love you? You can do anything you set your mind to do.” I feel my chest bow out with pride that my daddy really loves me and thinks I can do anything. He is my best friend. I want to grow up to be just like him.
- But, when Daddy says, “You stupid idiot, you’ll never amount to anything.” A knot comes up in my throat as I try not to cry. I hate that I’m so stupid. My daddy is smart. If he said I was stupid, then it must be so. He said I would never amount to anything. I don’t mean to be such a burden. I love him, but now I know I’ll never please him.
When my daddy says, “I love you.” I feel my heart smile and I feel tingles of joy and peace. I find security and a sense of well-being. I know I belong right by his side.
- But, when Daddy says, “You sorry sapsucker. I’m washing my hands of you. You can’t do anything right.” My value of life is smothered in the belittling, critical things my daddy says. If that’s what he thinks; then I must really be an awful person. I want to make my daddy proud of me, but I don’t know how. Maybe I really am worthless.
When Daddy says, “You’re a fine young man. Even though you messed up, there is nothing you could ever do that would make me not love you. You are my son and I am proud to call you mine.” Wow, how could he love me that much? Now I’m not afraid to be myself because I know my daddy will love me regardless of the mistakes I make. I am the happiest kid on earth. I love my daddy.
My daddy carries a huge responsibility in taking care of me. His positive words and unconditional love are critical in helping me determine the way I see myself. When he accepts me for who I am, I feel valued and content. My daddy is helping me develop strong character as I listen, learn, and grow.
Dads, choose your words wisely when you speak to your children. Hurtful words aren’t easily forgotten.
Happy Father’s Day,