FIRST-PERSON: Our children's future: It begins with us

DALLAS (BP)--Words matter.

Words can bless or bleed.

Words spoken are very hard to take back.

I've heard parents say almost flippantly, "You're stupid."

Or, "Don't be so dumb."

Or, "You're so irritating."

Some parents believe these words will make the child shape up and fly right. It's like a challenge, with the parent saying, "Prove me wrong." All they do is injure the self-image of the child. What a dad whispers in a child's ear sounds like a scream, and the message can heal or wound. A parent's voice is a megaphone straight to the heart of the child.

My own son, Bobby, said to me, "Remember when you yelled at me?"

I don't remember it that way. I know I didn't yell, I only said something very quietly and calmly -- yet in his mind, that was screaming in his ear. I was always very careful never to make negative statements to my children. Even since they've been adults, I've noticed they are very anxious to hear only positive words from me. So I've made an art form of saying things that lift them up, not tear them down. They are now in middle age, and they still want -- and need -- a blessing from their father, even now that I have to physically look up to my own sons.

Words we heard as children can haunt us into adulthood. Words that blessed us as children can accompany us into old age, long after the person who spoke them into our lives has died. The Book of John opens by telling us, "In the beginning was the Word." God spoke the world into being. Creation was accomplished through the spoken word of God. And we can speak life into the souls and hearts of our children.

Words are how we are to begin blessing our children, as my own father demonstrated. He died at the age of 45. I was 14. I still remember his presence, his words, his touch, his blessing.

Parents can inspire or destroy dreams in a single sentence. Children don't need parents to act like coaches, because coaches usually praise, then withhold the blessing. They do this to squeeze just a little more out the athlete. This might work in sports, but not at home. Children need a parent, especially a father, who speaks the words of love, hope and belonging into their lives. Even if you don't know how, or if this sounds strange to you, your children need it. And you can do it.

In fact, you must do it!

The future of your children, and your children's children, and even their children depends upon it.

Numbers 14:18 reads: "God does not leave the guilty unpunished, he punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generations."

What happens to our children? Our children's children? Their children and the generations to follow? It can begin with us.


Adapted from the book, "Champions for Life" by Bill Glass with Terry Pluto, published by Faith Communications. Used by permission. Glass is the founder of Champions for Life (formerly Bill Glass Ministries), which conducts citywide crusades, prison ministry events and youth outreach. In the National Football League for 12 years, Glass played on the 1964 NFL champion Cleveland Browns and was a four-time All-Pro. He was an All-American at Baylor University and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Terry Pluto is a sports columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal who has been named Ohio Sportswriter of the Year eight times.

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