How often do we hear our kids coming out with crazy things that they’ve heard us say? And it is either hilarious or horrifying! “Daddy, you had better get out of the room!” — (To mummy and daddy) “That’s enough fighting you two” — “Thanks babe” — “I’m sick and tired of this” — “This is a delish dish deserving a kiss”. And it’s because they hear us saying these phrases again and again. But imagine if we could harness the principle of repetitive phrases for their spiritual training? What if there were some phrases that we said again and again that taught our kids some incredibly profound things, that they just know to be the reality because they’ve heard them so many times? Here are 3 more killer phrases to start saying again and again – see the first 3 here.
4) I forgive you
What is your automatic response when someone apologises to you? Let me have a stab at it… “It’s ok.” Did I get it right? I may not have – I might have been way off the mark. But this kind of sentiment is incredibly common. However, I also think it can be quite harmful. When someone does something wrong (think evil – like disobeying their parents, hitting their brother, saying something mean) or hurts someone it always comes at a cost. Things are not ok. They have crossed a line that the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY has drawn. They have hurt someone who was made in the image of God. Relationally things could be busted. Things are most definitely not ok. Saying “it’s ok” is not only far from the truth, it tells our kids that things like right, wrong and justice don’t matter. It’s ok that you hurt me. It’s ok you did evil.
What is a better response? I forgive you. This does a number of things. It suggests that the behaviour was not ok. In fact, you could even say, “it’s not ok, but I forgive you” if you wanted to. Secondly, it says that you’re willing to cop the hurt and look passed it. This doesn’t sweep the pain under the carpet. It means you are copping it, and not holding it against them. This becomes a big thing when teaching your kids to forgive others. Because they will soon realise that forgiveness comes at a cost. It is not cheap. And thirdly, it speaks to the relational element. The behaviour has damaged our relationship. But with their repentance and our forgiveness, things are now ok. They weren’t before, but now they are again. You might even say, “I forgive you, and we’re ok now”.
This helps your kids operate with a much higher level of maturity than they otherwise would have, but far more importantly it will teach them about the forgiveness found in Jesus. It is necessary. It is costly. It fixes the real rift that had opened up between them and God. It does so many things! Have a crack at turning your it’s oks into I forgive yous.
Super Practical Tip: Use this phrase for every reconciliation needed in your family. Use it when kids apologise to you, when you apologise to your kids (do you forgive me?), when kids apologise to each other, when you or your spouse apologise to each other. Also, when the kids are super young and just learning to speak, use an action for forgiveness. We picked patting on he head followed by something good and fun like a big hug or picking them up and spinning them around.
5) Well done
Another phrase that can be unhelpful is even more common that it’s ok. And it is Good girl. Good boy. How often do those two words get released from our lips? And we use it in a range of different contexts. After they’ve done something morally good – good girl. When they have followed our instructions well – good boy. When they complete a task they were trying to perform – good girl. They spell a word correctly – good boy. They own up to something they’ve done wrong – good girl. They sit quietly in the car without saying anything – good boy. But the issue I have with this phrase is that it links their performance to their moral identity. It suggests that they are good because they have done whatever it is that they did. It has made them a good person.
But as Christians, we know that the only thing that makes a person good is faith in Jesus. Because it is in faith in him that his goodness is transferred to us, and we get to share in it. When we link our kids’ goodness to their own performance, we can end up subtly undermining the gospel we are trying to impress upon them. And in the way that almost every single Australian gets it wrong – you have to be good to get into heaven. Now please, don’t freak out if you’ve been using that phrase for years. There is grace. God is bigger than your phrases. But it is another piece of input into your kids, and will be having an impact on them.
So what to use instead? Well I think the phrase well done is much better. Or good job gets the job done well too (yes I realise the ridiculousness of that sentence). These phrases keep the focus on the behaviour, and don’t transfer into the realm of moral status. They don’t make us good, they are just good in and of themselves.
6) God saved his people
This is a phrase that is incredibly helpful to start using in your Bible reading. Every time you see God moving his mighty arm of salvation, recognise aloud that God has once again saved his people. It is incredibly simple, but can it really have a big impact? Thanks for asking. And yes it can. Because what this phrase does, is it shows the indestructible pattern of God saving his people. And there is this sneaky little attribute of God hiding behind this pattern called his faithfulness. (I wonder if anyone has ever called God’s faithfulness sneaky before?)
And here is where the rubber really hits the road. Because by regularly showing God’s faithfulness in this pattern to your kids, you are setting yourself up for many conversations of his reliability in their life. He always keeps his promise in saving his people. He will save them as they trust in Jesus. This truth will be a rock for your kids when they are in the storms of suffering – and trust me it’s coming! They can have assurance that he will keep his promises to them. And even better than having a vague concept of God’s faithfulness, they will have example after example of times when God was faithful to his people locked in their minds. Think Daniel. Think the Exodus. Think Esther. Think David. Think Jesus’ resurrection. These examples of God’s faithfulness will prove to be a tangible thing that your kids can rest on when days of trouble or doubt come!
Furthermore, it will reinforce the truth that God doesn’t save everybody. As sad as it is that there are some who will fall forever, it is true. And each reminder of God saving his people will motivate your kid to ensure they are part of God’s people, and inspire them to bring as many others into the camp as they can!
These 3 phrases are all pretty simple, but will have a huge impact on your kids if you start pulling them out regularly. Can I encourage you to do that? I’ve love to hear how it goes for you in the comments below.