When Jesus was baptized (Mattthew 3:13-16; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) we are told that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on him, and that a voice was heard from heaven. The voice said “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased”. The same voice was heard again when Jesus was transfigured, speaking the very same words – but this time with the addition of the phrase “Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
In these words of God the Father to his Son I believe there is some priceless direction for parents in their relationship with their children. They contain three ideas children need to hear from their parents:
- An affirmation of commitment and connection (“This is my Son”). Children need to hear from their parents that they will be there to love and support them no matter what. To call someone a son or a daughter is to affirm a relationship with them that transcends feelings, troubles, letdowns and disappointments. Children are given the greatest opportunity to thrive when they know that their parents love for them is unconditional.
- An expression of pride (“With whom I am well pleased”). As parents, it is easy to become focussed on correcting our children, and to miss opportunities to praise and encourage them. Children yearn to hear their parents say “I am proud of you”. It is not enough to think such things – our children need to have them verbalised to them.
- A referral to Jesus (“Listen to him”). The greatest gift that parents can give to their children is an introduction to Jesus and guidance in listening to and following him. Christian parents point beyond themselves to Jesus through their own expressions of church participation, prayer, service, giving and spiritual reflection. In listening to Jesus themselves, parents teach their children in turn what it means to listen to him as Savior, Lord and giver of life.
Try these ideas with your children this week:
- Explain to your children what it means for you to call them “son” or “daughter”.
- Express to your children specific ways in which you are proud of them.
- Tell your children what Jesus means to you and the difference “listening to him” has made in your life.