I love words. Witty word-plays, puns, and even the occasional double entendre. But "snark," the younger, looser brother of wit, all too often spills out. Not to mention snark's granddad, sarcasm, who carries a well-honed edge that cuts like teeth. Unfortunately, I can wield those word-swords with the best. So for about as long as I can remember, I have been trying to control the words that exit my mouth.
To think before I speak.
I've discovered that even people who are straightforward in their communication skills can struggle to use even simple words that edify and build:
"I am so proud of you!"
"You are a gem."
"I love you!"
Why do we find it hard to automatically say words that encourage, but all too easy, especially when angry, stressed or unhappy to spew forth:
"Get out! I can't stand being around you!"
"You are stupid."
"You'll never amount to anything."
Or worse yet, "Why can't you be like your sister, (or brother, or whomever...)?"
Even, "Is this your best?" or "You can do better!" becomes a put-down when said to the normally straight-A student who comes home with a B.
All these words just crush the spirit.
I distinctly remember those occasions when I felt like I would never be good enough. And that is the last thing I want my children to feel. I want them to know they are treasured, valued and loved...and NOT because they do anything a certain way...but because they ARE.
How do we cultivate an atmosphere or culture of encouragement in our homes?
How do we build homes where our children want to bring their friends to visit?
How do we make our homes safe havens from the craziness of the world?
We start by watching and controlling what we say and how we say it.
I am continually amazed at the power words hold over us. The words you speak now will shape and influence your children for years. Without even touching your child, you can change the course of his or her life. Just by your words.
In an article reprinted by the Huffington Post, Dr. Hyder Zahed talks about an analogy that, as a mom, I find very useful. He says, "Gary Chapman in his book, Love as a Way of Life, uses the vivid metaphor for words as being either ‘bullets or seeds’."
This is powerful.
If I think of my words as being a bullet designed to tear apart my child, I become cognizant that I am bringing them down, and with them, my home. But if I think of my words as seeds, planted in the fertile soil of my child's heart and mind, designed to thrive, my words can bring growth and life to my family and home.
You can read the entire Huffington Post article here.
The Bible is full of verses that talk about the power of the tongue. Consider these verses from the third chapter of the book of James:
"Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check."
"The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness."
"Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be."
These are powerful implications...we can figuratively burn down our homes with the evil words we speak over our families.
Obviously people have been having this problem for a long time. But I want to be a woman who builds my house, not one who drags it down with my ugly mouth. So here are a few things I do, or try to do, especially when angry:
1. Stop speaking.
This may seem too simple, but honestly, when I'm angry if I just stop talking things get corrected way more quickly than if I keep spouting.
Just remember the advice Thumper's mother gave him in the Disney movie Bambi:
"He doesn't walk very good, does he?"
"Thumper? What did your father tell you this morning?"
"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."
2. Walk away until I can be reasonable.
Another simple thing to do. Most parenting groups advocate counting to 10...or 100. However long it takes for you to get your breath and think clearly and realize your screaming 2 year old is not trying to be obnoxious or choosing to annoy you, but probably needs something...your attention, food, diaper change, to be comforted, to sleep...the list goes on and on but your child needs you in some capacity and you need to think clearly enough to figure out what to do, without resorting to something you'll regret.
3. Put down my phone.
My phone can absolutely rule me. When I'm reading something or responding to someone, it seems so much more important than my whiny child...or at least more enjoyable. It is not fun to take care of a fussy baby or demanding child, but that's my job...that's your job...and we want to do the best job we possibly can. So by putting down our phones, we will be able to think more clearly and respond with reason.
4. Ask my child to forgive me.
If I have yelled, or gone into my warp-speed New Jersey accent, and said things that hurt my child, I ask them to forgive me. I've been doing this for years and I think it has helped my kids realize I'm not perfect, far from it, but they know I want to be a good mom and love them well. Above all I want them to know they are loved. Completely. All the time.
5. Actively look for and comment on the things my child has done well that day
Things done with kindness, or unselfishly. The key is to comment on how proud you are of how kind or unselfish they are. We can go incredibly far beyond simply not speaking if we can't think of something nice to say by actively pursuing specific words that will build up our children.
In Proverbs 16:24 we read:
"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."
We can choose to bring life to our homes and families. I want to be this kind of woman, mom, wife, and friend. Everyday.
Real compliments, acknowledging when our child does something good, noble, trustworthy or kind, is absolutely imperative. Noticing, even small things, (sharing a toy, asking politely, not yelling or not grabbing the cat's tail) and choosing to commend our children will instill in them confidence and courage, strength and hope. And eventually you will find them encouraging others.
Let's say yes to Ephesians 4:29:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
I would love to hear how you handle your words. Or let me know if you struggle with this as I have. Please leave me a comment below and let's encourage each other.
Article by Ruth Grunstra
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Hi I'm Ruth
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with your child? My husband and I had the first of our 8 children in 1984 and our youngest in 2002. We've been married since 1980 and we are always learning new ways to engage our children. We would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us know what you have found that works and what doesn't, or ask me a question.
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