The Blessing: How to bless your child | Focus on the Family Australia
The Blessing: How to bless your child
By John Trent and Gary Smalley
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Using the brief overview of the five key elements of the blessing, you can create life-changing moments for your family.

Have you ever given a blessing? Have you ever been blessed?

And no, this doesn’t refer to a “blessing” for dinner.

This type of blessing comes directly from God and His design for humanity. Blessings can encompass elements of love, spoken affirmation, and unique encouragement from a parent to their children.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it within the Old Testament or other parts of the Bible. And, you might be thinking to yourself….That seems outdated or like something that doesn’t matter for me anymore.

If you have, you’re not alone. While blessings contain roots in ancient history, they still serve a very purposeful role in our world and even in your life.

But what does it mean to give a blessing? What actions and attitudes combine to make this biblical tool so uniquely effective?

Where Does “The Blessing” Come From?

In modern times, a father’s blessing echoes the original blessing from God the Father to humanity. God intends for this to mirror one of His first blessings to Father of Israel: Abraham.

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” Genesis 12:2-3 ESV.

But this isn’t the only place within Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, fathers and sons give and receive blessings that mirror God’s blessing to humanity. In Genesis chapter 27, Jacob and Esau compete for their father Isaac’s blessing. Later in Genesis, Jacob blesses his twelve sons in in unique and powerful ways. And even in the New Testament, Jesus “took [the children] in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Key Elements of The Blessing

Throughout Scripture, the blessing always included five key elements:

Each of the elements serves a specific purpose for both the one giving and the one receiving the blessing. Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these key elements.

Meaningful Touch

First, meaningful touch was an essential element in Old Testament homes. We read in Genesis 27:26 that Isaac said, “Come near now and kiss me, my son.” This incident was not isolated. Within Scripture, blessings contain meaningful touch and a caring background from parent to child.

Meaningful touch has many beneficial effects. The act of touch is key in communicating warmth, personal acceptance, affirmation, even physical health. For any person who wishes to bless a child, touch is an integral part.

A Spoken Message

Next, the second element involves a spoken message. Today, words of love and acceptance are seldom received in many homes. Sometimes, parents assume that simply being present communicates the blessing. However, a blessing fulfils its purpose only when it is spoken verbally.

For a child in search of the blessing, silence communicates confusion. Children who are left to fill in the blanks when it comes to what their parents think about them will often feel insecure. Spoken or written words at least give the child an indication that they are worthy of some attention.

I learned this lesson on the football field.

When I began playing football in high school, one particular coach constantly pointed out my mistakes. After I missed an important block in practice one day, this coach stood one inch from my face mask and chewed me out. When he finally finished, he sent me to the sidelines.

Standing next to me was a third-string player who rarely got into the game. I can remember saying, “Boy, I wish he would get off my case.”

“Don’t say that,” my teammate replied. “At least he’s talking to you. If he ever stops talking to you, that means he’s given up on you.”

Within counselling, we see many adults interpret their parents’ silence in exactly that same way. Their parents may provide basic needs. However, without actual words, there is uncertainty of how much they are valued and accepted.

To see the blessing grow in the life of a child, we need to verbalise our message. Good intentions aside, good words — spoken, written and preferably both — are necessary to communicate genuine acceptance.

Attaching High Value

Meaningful touch and a spoken (or written) message lead to the next element. To powerfully convey intentional meaning, the words must attach high value to the person receiving the blessing.

In blessing Jacob (thinking it was Esau), Isaac said, “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. … Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you” Gen. 27:27, 29.

That pictures a very valuable person! Not just anybody merits having nations bow down to him! And while we might think that saying someone smelled like a field would be criticising him, that is not the case. This type of field was one where there was tremendous growth and life and reward. Imagine a record-setting harvest and surplus of food. That’s the picture Isaac gives his son.

As you may have noticed, Isaac uses a word picture (the field) to describe how valuable his son is to him. Word pictures are a powerful way of communicating acceptance. In the Old Testament, they were key to communicating a message of high value to a child.

Picturing a Special Future

Next, the fourth element involves picturing a special future for the person receiving the blessing. Isaac said to his son Jacob, “May God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth. … Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you” Gen. 27:28–29.

One distinction is necessary between Isaac’s blessing and the act of picturing a special future for a person today. Because of Isaac’s unique position as a patriarch (God’s appointed leader and a father of the nation of Israel), his words to Jacob carried with them the weight of biblical prophecy. We today cannot predict another person’s future with such biblical accuracy. But we can help those see a future that is full of light and opportunity. We can let them know we believe they can build an outstanding life and future with the strengths and abilities God has given them.

Our Lord himself speaks quite eloquently about our future in the Bible. In fact, He assures our present relationship with him and what He has in store for us as His children.

We need to picture just such a special future for our children if we are serious about giving them our blessing. With this element, a child can gain a sense of security in the present and grow in confidence to serve God and others in the future.

An Active Commitment

For the patriarchs, not only their words but God himself stood behind the blessing they bestowed on their children. Several times God spoke directly through the Angel of the Lord to the patriarchs confirming his active commitment to their family line.

Today, parents need to rely on the Lord to give them the strength and staying power to confirm their children’s blessing by expressing a similar active commitment. They, too, have God’s Word through the Scriptures as a guide, plus the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Why is active commitment so important? Words alone cannot communicate the blessing; they need to contain a willingness to do everything possible to help the one blessed be successful. We can tell a child, “You have the talent to be a very good pianist”. But if we neglect to provide a piano for that child to practice on, our lack of commitment has undermined our message.

When it comes to spending time together or helping develop a certain skill, some children hear, “Wait until the weekend”. Then, it becomes, “Wait until another weekend” so many times that they no longer believe the words of blessing.

At Home With the Family Blessing

Within Scripture, the blessing was everything for a child. It is one of the primary vehicles to take God’s love and pass it on to the next generation. Using the brief overview of the five elements of the blessing, you can create life-changing moments for your family.

Blessing Series

© 2011 John Trent. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Some material adapted from the book The Blessing authored by John Trent and Gary Smalley and published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Modified for publication in 2021.

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