I just spent a week at a Bible camp with a young father, mother and their 18 month old son. Through the course of the week I never heard the dad use his son’s name. When addressing his boy or talking about him he always said, "My son."
The mom and son stayed in a camper while the dad stayed in a cabin with a bunch of teenage boys. So, the first thing every morning he came into the dining hall, walked to the spot where his family sat, and asked, "Where is my son?"
When his wife brought his boy into the room he would say, "There is my son!"
When a newcomer to camp would ask him who the little boy was he would answer, "My son."
What spirit do you think this dad demonstrated toward his son and was felt by everyone around? Pride (the healthy kind), joy, gratitude. His delight in his son was inescapable. His face lit up when he saw the boy and he proudly said, "My son."
I spent a week with this dad and never once heard him say the boy’s name. It was always, "My son."
Fifteen years from now when, as a teenager, this boy is faced with the trials and temptations typical of that age, he will have a resource to help him through those tough years: a dad who loves and takes pride in his children. That awareness will sustain the boy and may even lead him to approach his father and say, "Dad, we need to talk."
The foundation for such a relationship is being formed now in the dad’s unabashed joy in his son.
What else can we do with our small children to form the bonds of meaningful relationship with them?