By CRAIG HARRIS, Special to the Herald-Press
It was one of those unexpected moments in parenting when you are able to break through and possibly make a lasting difference in the life of one of your children. It seems moments like these just happen — they are never planned or expected, but occur when circumstances suddenly align.
I was installing a motion detector light on the front of our house. My nine-year-old daughter was standing beside the ladder watching. Occasionally, she would hand me a tool or ask a question. No big deal, really. Then I realized I needed to run to the hardware store to buy an electric box. They cost less than a dollar, but I didn’t have one and had no choice but to drive around the loop to get it.
That’s when it happened. Savannah wanted to ride with me. So we hopped into my truck and began our quest. The good thing about a trip like this is there is time for conversation. No one’s in a big hurry or fretting about the trip. It’s a great chance to talk and listen, so that’s what we did.
The atmosphere in the cab was open and friendly, so I suddenly asked her, "Do you think your mother and I are proud of you?"
She thought for a moment and then said, "Well, I think you were proud when I won the trophy for “Shoot, Pass and Kick."
This was terribly interesting — and I might add, a bit terrible. She was referring to a trophy she had won at a church sporting event two years ago. It upset me that she felt she had to refer to a specific winning moment. Where did that come from? Have we shown her that the only way to make us proud is through conquest in sports? I certainly hope not.
As I thought about her answer later, however, I felt a little better. I had asked a pointed question and had put her on the spot to answer it. Children see life in concrete, black and white terms. She was simply searching her memory for a specific reason why we might be proud of her and that trophy was the first thing that came to her mind.
But I seized the opportunity to give her a major ego boost. I quickly answered that we were very proud of her, not just because of a trophy she had won in the past, but because of who she is today. I named several specific things: she made good grades; she was sweet; she helped her mother around the house; she was pretty; she was a good helper at church.
"We are very proud of you and I want you to remember that," I repeated.
Her sparkling countenance made the whole trip worth the effort. I was glad I needed that electric box. Now she wanted to make us even more proud. It felt good to hear and she wanted more of it.
Have you heard of the man who told his wife he loved her the day he married her and said he’d let her know if he ever changed his mind? Bad idea. Wives need to hear it every single day. The same principle applies here: children need to be reminded over and again that we love them and are proud of them. Never assume they know it. True, words can lose their power with overuse, but I would rather tell my kids too much than not enough. Tell you children you love them and give specific reasons why you are proud of them. It may just make a world of difference.
The Rev. Craig Harris is pastor at Montalba Christian Church and is employed as the Parent Involvement Coordinator for Palestine Independent School District. Contact Harris at http://www.sycamoretreepublishing.com