Ah, Spring break, that glorious time when the kids are running free and the parents are staggering into work like zombies, because the kids are driving them looney and they got even less sleep than usual. This is the perfect time to think about the power of words and how they affect all of us. So, before you ground everyone for being too noisy and take away their favorite toys because they are annoying (or was that just me?)- pour your coffee, think about how beautiful those kids are while sleeping, and ponder word power with me.
Sometimes I surprise myself with how I react to words depending on who is speaking to me. The same phrase from my 6-year-old could be majorly offensive from my husband, for instance. A joke coming from a good friend may be a major insult, but if I heard it from a random co-worker, I may think nothing of it. Here’s what happens when my son innocently asks about sensitive topics: Ethan (6 years old), had to sit and wait for me to put makeup on in the car for a few minutes one day before we went to a school event…
Ethan: Why do you have to put makeup on, mommy?
Me: I don’t have to, buddy, I just want to.
I could see him thinking about it for a minute and then he came up and peeked in the rear view mirror so that he knew I could see him.
Ethan: “Oh – it’s because you want them to think that you are pretty, right?”
>Okay freeze: if those words came out of my husband’s mouth, we would have exchanged heated, unfriendly words afterwords which may have ended with me in tears and both of us walking away – especially if it was the wrong time of the month – do you know what I’m talking about ladies? Probably something like this “THINK I’m pretty? What are you implying?” As if he were implying that my ugliness must be disguised from all the world to protect the innocent. Anyone out there who knows my husband knows that he is the sweetest person in the world and that he tells me frequently how beautiful I am, but I do tend to overreact if he stumbles on his words by accident:) The innocence of children is their saving grace some days 🙂 ! <
Me: (chuckling) Yes, buddy, that’s why.
Okay, now for the lesson to be learned here… I think that the same rules apply when we speak with our kids, especially young kids. We should adjust our language to them instead of expecting them to adapt to us. It is so hard to tell how they interpret what we say sometimes, but each child is different and part of the responsibility of parenting is figuring out the personality types of our children and how they respond to certain topics and conversation. For example, it’s important to see how they react to our words and the words of other people. Ethan has a natural wild free spirit built in him that is mostly from his father. Along with this free spirit side, he tends to not listen to correction unless he is looking me right in the eye and there is nothing shiny within close proximity, but we have to take the bad with the good, right? When Ethan is speaking with me during free time or play time, he is happy-go-lucky and eager to play and have fun. However, when he is working on something with an end goal, his competitive side comes out. Whether it is homework, a craft, or a sport, he demands perfection of himself (and others). Fortunately and unfortunately, this trait he got from me. He gets upset if he has to erase something on his homework, which sometimes means he throws the whole thing away in a fit of rage. I have tried explaining to him that it is okay to mess up and that is what erasers are for. He used to be convinced that he should be able to do homework without erasing anything or else he says ” I can’t do any homework ever again because I’m not smart enough.” It took a long time, a lot of “You’re doing a great job! I love your story!” and hanging everything up on the fridge to proudly display his work, before he started to believe in himself academically. On his T-ball team, he keeps score in his head, even though the coaches do not keep score and nobody gets “out” at their young age. The coaches are always encouraging, and Ethan tries to be, but he gets so mad at the other players and himself if they make mistakes or aren’t paying attention. He tells the kids on the other team when they are supposed to run when he is playing first base position. He can’t bear to see someone “not playing it right” and he often corrects his little brother at home (who barely stands over the size of the tee) when we just play for fun in the back yard.
Obviously, not all children are the same, and I am betting Shawn, my 2-year-old, will be much more laid back about competition and school work as he already is laid back about most things now: clothing optional at home, everyone in the car singing whatever song they want, his favorite activity of the day is generally during a low-key activity such as watching a TV show or listening to music.
As parents, we need to think about our words and how each child will react to them differently. I know I know, hard to do when your 2-year-old wakes you up at 4am begging to sleep with you, but let’s think this through for a minute… grab that extra cup of coffee while the kids are still sleeping – hopefully!
I know that Ethan is going to need an extra dose of encouragement when it comes to competition and homework. He criticizes himself enough for both of us and I don’t need to add to the negative thoughts in his head. I do need to build him back up when he listens to those negative thoughts and gets down on himself.
For Shawn, he needs extra encouragement to go on the potty and will love the praise and attention afterwards, but he could care less if he plays baseball according to the rules or even finishes the game he started (two-year-olds, God love them!) I can already see the pattern. I’m going to have to remind him frequently that clothing is not optional in public, that holding mommy’s hand is not optional while crossing the road, and that throwing food at the table is still not tolerated, just like yesterday. He will most likely hear the word “no” more frequently than Ethan did even at age 2, because sometimes “no” is required regardless of the mood Shawn is in and at this stage, it’s taking more for it to sink in with Shawn than it did with Ethan. Shawn is not mentally traumatized by the word no, he just doesn’t understand how far he can push the limits yet and likes to test us frequently to see what he can get away with. It’s kind of like how we keep trying to test God.
Proverbs 18:21: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
What are some of your experiences with word power and how it has affected you and your children?
Have a blessed day!