I loved this blog by Kara Powell. Kara is one of the key thought leaders in the youth and family ministry movement. She is at the top of the list of people I respect and admire in our field.
*Portions of this blog post are adapted from “The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family” by Kara Powell.
Our friends Dale and Jody have a great relationship with their kids.
So great their 24-year-old son drives ninety minutes across Los Angeles (in traffic!) for family dinners or to watch basketball playoff games with his parents.
Their 27-year-old daughter asked Jody if the two of them could meet to study the Bible together. Every week.
My husband, Dave, and I have asked them what makes their family relationships so magnetic. Their answer is pretty simple: “Our kids know we like being with them.”
Dale and Jody stumbled onto a key factor in fighting for the heart of family relationships: Their kids know that their parents are crazy about them.
Research backs up their parenting intuition and shows how family relationships affect our kids’ faith. One study of relational dynamics in more than 300 families spanning 35 years analyzed the power of warmth among the generations. Family warmth was more correlated with faith transmission than any other relational factor (including amount of contact between the generations, the type of contact, and the number of children in the family).
In other words, families in which parents and children felt close were more likely to be the same families in which children also adopted the faith of their parents.  So letting our kids know that we like them not only bonds our family closer together, it also increases the odds that our kids will keep their faith.
So how do we communicate we like our kids? First, through our words.
As I’ve pondered the research on family faith and relationships, I’m convinced that there are three words your kids are longing for you to say to them: “I like you.” They’ve probably heard “I love you” from you more times than they can count.
But do they know you actually enjoy them as people?
I’m still learning how to communicate to my kids that I like them. But research has motivated me to not only tell my kids, “I like you,” but also to tell them…
“I’m crazy about you.”
“I love spending time with you.”
“I feel so blessed to be your mom.”
How else do we communicate we like our kids? Through our faces.
One of my goals—a goal I don’t always accomplish—is that when my kids walk in the door, even if I didn’t say a word, my face would tell them that I’m their biggest fan. That they would know without a shadow of a doubt that mom is glad to see them.
What do you do to let your kids know not only that you love them, but that you like them?
 Bengston, Vern L., with Norella Putney and Susan Harris, Families and Faith: Generations and the Transmission of Religion. Unpublished manuscript, July 2011, final report submitted to The John Templeton Foundation: 90.
This finding has been confirmed by multiple studies across a variety of faith traditions over the past three decades.
This article originally appeared here.