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Years ago, I stumbled across an article by Tim Challies entitled What Good Dads Say. The title caused me to think about my own list.  As we approach Father’s Day we need to be reminded that, as dads, our words are powerful. One of my sons has said to me on occasion, “Dad, I can still hear your voice (in my head).”

What an incredible privilege and responsibility! So what do good dads say? Here are seven of my suggested phrases for younger children.

1. “I love Jesus Christ and I hope you will too. That would make me the happiest dad in the world.” By this we are communicating our own love for Jesus. We are getting down to the heart level. And in addition, we are casting a vision for their lives. Children naturally want to please their earthly father. What would please me? Ultimately, to love and follow Jesus. (See 3 John 4).

2. “Everybody in the van. It’s Jesus’ favorite day and we are headed to church.” As dads, we want to disciple our children to be committed to a healthy local church. We are not just chauffeuring them there, but are involved ourselves. We want our excitement about the church to rub off. You don’t have to go to church. You get to go to church. What a joy and privilege!

3. “I’m sorry you saw Mom and me disagree. We will work it out. I love her and I’m not going anywhere.” Conflict in marriage is inevitable. Often that heated disagreement occurs in front of our children. Unbeknownst to us, this rocks their world. They love both of us and want us to get along. This statement apologizes and expresses confidence in the future. It reassures them that you are here to stay.

4. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I will work on that.” This is related to the previous point. If we are followers of Jesus, then our standard is to obey him no matter what our children do.  “I am sorry that I yelled at you but you should have cleaned up your room when I told you,” is not an apology. We are responsible for both our actions and our reactions. When we sin against our children, and we will, we can genuinely repent and ask their forgiveness. Notice in this phrase is a promise to work on the problem. (See Parenting with Patience for more help overcoming anger.)

5. “Because I love you, I am giving these consequences to you.” As dads, we want to take the lead in the discipline of our homes. (More about that next week). That means we have a plan with both positive rewards and negative consequences. It also means we hand out those negative consequences with love because we know that is how the Lord treats us. He disciplines us because he loves us (Hebrews 12:7). So without anger, we calmly and lovingly train our children. (See Parenting with Confidence for more help in this area.)

6. “Let’s…” This word is the essence of leadership. It is encouragement toward action. And it has self-involvement. There is certainly a place of telling our children what to do. “You need to get ready for bed now. You need to do your homework.” But warm leadership includes ourselves when possible. “Let’s go outside and work on the yard together. Let’s see if we can tackle that homework. I will help you.” Let’s is an encouraging leadership word.

7. “I love you.” Our children cannot hear this enough. Over and over we need to tell them we love them,  are proud of them, and believe in them. 

What would you add? Maybe I will do another seven at some point.

Dads, your words are powerful. If you are an undertalker, ask the Holy Spirit to help you be an encourager. If you are an overtalker, ask the Holy Spirit to give you self-control. 

Want to think more about this topic?
1. Read chapters 10, 11, 12, and/or 13 in The Disciple-Making Parent. Or listen to those chapters on the free audiobook. Email us here to get your free audiobook if you don’t already have it. 

2. Listen to these short (5-8 minutes) podcasts on our audioblog.
Teaching Our Family to Forgive  Apple Spotify
The Power of the Red Plate Apple Spotify

3. Our long form podcast interviewed Tim Shorey on his book and How to Communicate Well.  Apple Spotify