She was on the phone talking to a friend and my mom had no idea that though I was playing in the room I was paying attention to what she said. I mostly played but I would stop and listen every so often. But then she said something that brought my confused little self to a halt–“Since the day after giving birth to her all of these stomach issues began.” My mom has for as long as I can remember had stomach issues. Many times it would leave her lying in bed or just in a bad mood. She couldn’t eat so many things and when she did she was in pain. So hearing that short phrase that I’m sure she said harmlessly haunted me from that day forward. I walked around with the weight of the world on my shoulders. It was my fault that she was sick. In no way did she mean that or say that but in my little mind that is exactly what I said. When she was upset at me and I didn’t know why I quickly went to that conversation and thought, “She doesn’t like me because I my birth made her sick.”
My mom meant no harm that day with that statement she was just having a normal conversation with her friend but what my little ears heard was more than harmful. So I share this story to remind myself now as a parent and to encourage you to watch what you say in front of your kids. Sometimes we think we are whispering but we are not. Sometimes we think they are young and won’t clue in but they do. Sometimes we think what we said is harmless but it may cause a lifetime of pain. Sometimes we flippantly say things and regret them later. If we do, make sure to apologize to your spouse or child then assure them of what you really meant.
Meaningful words don’t always have to be encouraging phrases addressed to someone. For example, my parents regulary told us “let’s be generous with our blessings (even though we had little),” that phrase has been foundational in my life.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~Mother Theresa
I will use the word “meaningful” often in this post because I want you to realize that I don’t mean just using words like “good job”, “you’re super” or “that was nice”, although these words maybe encouraging sometimes there is more value when we find specific and meaningful ways to encourage our children, spouse, siblings. Each person is different so finding those ways that build them up is important.
I have heard many times a parent tell their friends in front of the child , “I’m so annoyed with my fucking lazy ass child. or She’s so freaking annoying. She’s driving me crazy.” or other similar comments of that sort. Sometimes they say it flippantly without much thought other times they say it with much anger. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” Matthew 12:3 but even if you don’t read the Bible you probably heard this quote, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Maybe at the moment you just spoke out of anger or frustration because sometimes we do that, I get it. But the more you say these kinds of things about our children or spouse, we then start believing this about them.
Science shows that our thoughts about things that happen to us can have a big impact on how we feel and how we act towards someone or a given situation.”
Using words that build, in our home may mean we need to evaluate our speech. Words like “f— you, or the hell with you” or whatever other profanities come to your mind these are never words that build even if you are not directing them at your child. Your child is still hearing them and they are definitely not building anyone up by using them. So if you find that you have to use them when venting, save them for when you are out with your friends and not around your children.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Meaningful words are also polite words like thank you, please, excuse me, no thank you … We should also use these words with our children and spouse. These words are not just for strangers or friends, it’s important that we incorporate them in our home with our family.
The words we say will teach if we practice what we preach.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.”
Even though I know the importance of meaningful words, it still takes a lot of discipline on my part to make sure that I am sharing them out loud (not just in my head). I do okay at encouraging my kids but it’s definitely an area that I need to be intentional about. I recently started doing THIS to help me be more intentional. but I need to work on this when it comes to my husband. Can anyone else relate?
“Silence is not always golden.”
Take a moment and think about the words that have breathed life into your down trodden soul. Those words that lift the spirits of the hurting and give wings to dreams and give hope and guidance to the lost. Words that remind us that good old fashion manners are not a thing of the past. Jot down those meaningful words or phrases and put them on index cards and on a ring if you need the reminder (like I do). My husband recently shared that he wanted us to start praying again in the morning as a couple. Hearing him say “let’s pray” every morning, awakens my soul.
This list could quickly be 10 pages long as I think back to the powerful phrases that built me up as a kid and the things I have heard in my counseling office from other families. What are some other phrases that you would add to this list? I asked my husband this question and his smart alecky self replied “I wish I would have heard my parents say to me, we are going on a European vacation.”
What other words/phrases would you add to the list?
Other post you’ll enjoy:
What parent doesn’t deal with this? Kid Friendship Dilemmas–I’m not your friend anymore.