Lesson: I think many of us mindlessly say things on a daily basis without weighing the effect of our words. Our words have power, good or bad, a lesson that my second mother (my Aunt Velma) drilled into my head and heart from a very early age. I didn’t realize how right she was until I became a teacher.
As a teacher and an administrator, one of the things that made my heart ache was when a parent would come in and unload a mouthful of harsh negativity onto a student in an effort to discipline and correct their child for something wrong they did. “You’re so stupid” and “He is just so bad” are two comments that I’ve heard one too many times. However those are mild examples. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve witnessed parents say to their children. The part that always struck me was, the more parents called their child “bad”, the more the child believed it and acted out by displaying even more “bad” behavior. The more a parent called their child “stupid”, the more the child felt “stupid” and they struggled academically and made poor choices. It was mind-blowing to me! I had never made such a connection to my Aunt’s words until I started seeing it play out first-hand with some of my students and their parents.
Now this influence worked both ways. I’ve seen positive words of affirmation and encouragement have just as much power. I’ve witnessed parents speak positive words to their child while correcting them for poor choices. I’ve heard, “You are better than this” and “I know that you can turn this around.” Don’t get me wrong, both sets of parents were upset with their children for poor behaviors and both sets of children received consequences for their actions. The difference was, parents that used their anger while under control, knew to use their words to make it a teachable moment and parents that used their anger uncontrolled, lashed out with harsh words and made the situation worse moving forward.
Now you may be saying, “Well I don’t speak harshly to my children.” Well, there are some very subtle things we say that many of us think are harmless but can also have a negative effect on our children. Even when we say we are just “joking” or shooting the breeze, our words matter. For example, one might say, “She is so clumsy, she’s going to break her neck one day,” “Her attitude stinks” or “He is just so lazy.” These words may seem so innocent, without any intention for harm or negativity in anyway, but that doesn’t negate the effect and power those words have over your children.
Now I’m not suggesting that we are magicians and can spontaneously make our children behave the way we want them to by what we say to them. If that were the case, we would all have angels, right? Nevertheless, we shouldn’t underestimate the power and influence we have over our children with the words we say.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose. Proverbs 18:21 (Message Bible)
Application: Be more thoughtful about the words you say to your children & ask yourself the question: Am I speaking words that give life and encouragement to them or discouragemt and doom?