I tell my children these three things everyday: I love you, I’m proud of you, and you’re a really good boy.
I don’t want my sons to have any doubt about these things. Those sentiments need to be forged as truth in their soul.
I typically tell my sons these things each night before bed. I explain why I was proud of them or give them praise for a good choice they made. The time before bed allow us a rare quiet moment to reflect on the day. These are great opportunities to help reinforce their character development and self-esteem.
I also repeat these things as a reminder to myself the commitment I have made to them as their father. Verbally telling them these things daily forces me to back them up with my actions. Just like standing up on my wedding day and public stating my commitment to my wife through our vows, it is a call-to-action.
I love you.
This is not said enough, period. Our unconditional love, through action, and followed by words, is critical for our children.
Many times, our children, especially when they are young, do not comprehend all of our actions as parents. Whether we are disciplining them or protecting them, we do it because we know what is best for them. Sometimes we pull them out of danger. Sometimes we are trying to build long-term character such as self-control. They may not always be happy about those decisions we make but we do it for good reasons.
Often I will take a minute and explain to my 4 year old why I made some of those parenting choices. A very common example of this in our household is how we limit the sweets our children eat. Often they want more cookies or ice cream and end up in tears when we say no. We do this for their health and well-being but they may be confused about why we do it. They often think we’re being mean and that we don’t love them. I use this time, away from the emotional toil of being denied more sweets, to remind them that we did it because we love them.
I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of who my children are, not just what they achieve. I am proud of them when they try, even if they fail. I am proud of their interests, even if they differ than mine.
I try to find one or two things from each day to cite a specific moment that made me proud and tell them why. While I do praise them for achievement milestones, I usually focus on moments when they expressed good judgment, kindness, generosity, effort, or creativity.
We need to be our children’s ardent fan. Be proud of their character and effort, not just the results.
You’re a really good boy.
I want my sons to know they are worthy of love, regardless of the mistakes they make. Too often we beat ourselves up and question our own self-worth. I want them to understand that all people make good choices and bad choices but all of us are worthy of love.
I tell them they are a really good boy because I want to make a clear distinction between the choices they make everyday and who their core being is. We all make bad choices everyday but that doesn’t mean we’re bad people. This is a huge distinction that is the foundation of our self-esteem.
In my early 20’s I fought depression. I’ve also been to more funerals for young male friends that committed suicide than I like to remember. I’m convinced that I never imagined taking my own life because I’ve always known that I was worthy deep in my soul even if my head was trying to convince me otherwise.
The world is full of challenges and at times darkness. This is why it is important to understanding that we are good and worthy of being loved. I hope that my words and actions as a father mitigate the darkness that life brings their way.
I remind my sons that they are good. They are worthy. They are loved. I repeat them so they may come to know this is true and that my conviction of these things will never waiver.
They’ll make bad mistakes. They’ll feel unworthy of love but I hope they always know they’re worthy of it. I have a part in helping build a foundation for them to fall back on when the inevitable dark trials of life appear.
So go, right now, and tell your children you love them, that you are proud of them, and they are good and worthy of being loved. And remember, you’re not just speaking to them for that moment, but as a message to carry with them for the rest of their lives.