“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” -Rachel Wolchin
“Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” -Yehuda Berg
“When someone tells you that you have done something that has hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” –
“The most powerful and courageous heroes I know are those who bite their tongues when justification, validation, temptation, or vengeance would have them strike with truthful, hurtful words.” –
I am sure we have all heard the age-old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I remember being told that as a kid, and to be honest, I think it is a crock. After 32 years on this earth, meeting many people and having all sorts of relationships tested I truly believe this saying is more harmful than it is good. I can say that I think it comes from good intentions, but it doesn’t always carry the truth. As a mom, I would love to tell my boys not to listen to what others say and just let it roll off. Yes, we want our children to not take stock in what others say or what others think about them. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes words really, really hurt and sometimes it comes from the people we are close with.
As a writer, maybe I view words differently. I understand the impact words can have on the people that read what I write. For better or for worse, words are powerful. Words have the ability to inspire or discourage, to wound or to heal, to knock down or to build someone up. Be careful how you use them. We might not ever be aware of the weight our words carry with some people. I can promise you this, some of the words you use will be carried around with people forever.
How will I handle this with my boys as they get older? To be honest, I am not really sure because I don’t always handle this well myself. Maybe it starts with teaching your children to be kind but also teaching them that not all people they encounter will be kind. Maybe it starts with the parents. Maybe we should do our best when it comes to showing our children how we react to people and situations. Maybe it starts by teaching them to stand up for themselves, not to be doormats, but you can also do it in a mature way. We don’t want our children to retaliate out of anger, but you also don’t want your children to put up with verbal abuse either. You see bullying everywhere you look and I don’t ever want my children to think they have to put up with bullying.
I might not be able to undo some of the pain that words have done to me. Sometimes, I think I have forgiven and forgotten, and in a moment of weakness those words creep back in and break my heart over again. It is a constant battle to remind myself that I am not the words that are spoken to me. I am what I make of myself. God has bigger plans for me. But if I can prepare my kids and teach them ways to cope, then I am good with that. I think it starts with teaching them kindness.
Make Helping Others a Family Affair
Get your children involved in kindness projects. For example, a few times each year my kids and I go through toys and clothes to donate to others in need. Ask them for ideas on how to be kind. Get them involved. Let them learn what it feels like to put a smile on someone else’s face. Teach them to share the wealth.
Teach Them the Art of Pitching In
Assign chores and teach teamwork. Chores can teach children that it is important to pitch in and the home will run more smoothly if every family member gives a little and puts in a little effort. Teach them to help clean up if they have a playdate at someone else’s house.
Teach Them Respect for our World
Teach your children to never litter. Always throw away their trash, especially when they are outside. Teach them to recycle. Pick up cans and take them to be recycled.
Give Your Kids Rose-Colored Glasses and DON’T Criticize Their Efforts
I know that the world is a scary place and it seems as though bad is all around us. All you have to do is turn on the TV and find out just how bad the world is because the negative is all the news seems to share. It is important to let our kids know the good things that are going on in this world. Search for stories that share the positive efforts of people helping other people. One of my favorite quotes by Mr. Rogers goes along with this, “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Goodness is still in this world, sometimes we just have to look harder. Never criticize their efforts because all it does is discourage them from wanting to help again.
Teach Them to Treat Others The Way They Want to be Treated
Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” That seems simple enough, right? Well, it should be, but I think it is something that is often forgotten in the world today. Lighten someone’s load. Offer a helping hand at a grocery store or anywhere that you see a need. Cheer up a stranger or a friend! Do something without expecting anything in return. Give thanks and teach them to count their blessings.
Guide Your Children into Managing Destructive Feelings
We need to teach our children that all feelings are ok, but some of the ways we deal with them are not ok. We need to help our children take their feelings and deal with them in productive ways. Honestly, I use Daniel Tiger to help my kids calm down, “if you are feeling mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four. 1, 2, 3, 4…” It is a great reminder to just take a moment and collect your thoughts before you say or do something that could hurt yourself or others. Have open communication with your children and give them the coping skills needed for each stage in life.
This might not be the solution to everything, but I do believe it is a start. It is never too late to change yourself. Remember that the children you are raising are going to be the future of our world, teach them ways to make the world a kinder place. Leave a legacy you can be proud of and have faith in.