My 7-year-old son is like a lot of boys his age—energetic, jovial and somewhat loud.
He also has this peculiarity that is prominent among his peers: He pretends he doesn’t like to be praised.
“Great job, son!” I’ll tell him—to which he responds with a shrug of embarrassment or a stare of indifference.
But I know my words impact him—greatly.
One time he and I were having a candid father-son talk when I—unwisely—told him that the Bible says I should love his mom more than I love him. Oh, sure, it was a super-dumb thing to say, even though it had a biblical basis (Ephesians 5) and was factually true. But his 7-year-old heart wasn’t ready to process that, and he went to his room and sobbed. I nearly cried, too.
Sociologists have conducted dozens of studies demonstrating the power of words, but Scripture—more than 2,000 years ago—beat social science to the punch.
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” Proverbs 16:24 tells us.
If we were to analyze the thousands of words we say each day to our children, would they be mostly negative (“I can’t believe you did that!”) or positive (“let’s clean that up together”)? Our words, both good and bad, shape our children in the same manner the talented potter molds the unformed clay.
My wife and I have become intentional in recent months about using more positive words around our children, and we’ve seen our home become an even happier one. The results, though, aren’t always seen overnight. Just as honeycomb and other healthy foods don’t lead to instant good health, sometimes our words have to be sprinkled on our children each day and every week, until months later we see fruit—whether that is obeying better, treating their siblings and friends better, or even making better grades.