Great Parents Understand the Power of Words
In his book, “The Most Important Place on Earth,” Robert Wolgemuth describes a startling comparison between words and guns. He perceives words as bullets, and our mouths as the loaded guns. When words are spoken, they are always real. There are no “blanks;” words have an impact every single time. Real spoken words have real meaning and they can be lethal. Words can and do hurt. Think back to your last argument with your spouse or sibling or even a parent or close friend. You may have forgotten the reason for the disagreement, but I bet you can recall a phrase or two shouted in the heat of anger. You are always so mean to me! You are lazy! You are sloppy! You are … You are you are you are…
Wolgemuth recommends we change these “You are” bullets to what he calls corrections. Suppose you tell your interrupting child that she is rude. Remember, even simple small words have a big impact. If your child listens to you she has just heard she is rude. She now has a good reason to continue interrupting or using unkind words – that’s what rude people do, right? She is fulfilling the prophecy you’ve just spoken for her. For another example, consider the young child who is uncomfortable making eye contact and speaking to adults. Parents typically will whisper an apology, well within the child’s hearing, that he is shy. Again, this child has just received permission to continue behaving this way; HE IS shy, so he doesn’t need to make eye contact or speak up. If we stopped to consider the power of these words, perhaps we would reframe the conversation as a correction and simply remind little Bobby that it is polite and kind to look at someone and speak clearly so you can be heard.
The Bible has much to say on the topic of powerful words. God’s words were so powerful they created everything (Genesis 1). But even human words can do powerful things. Positive and praising words can bring hope and encouragement, but negative words can be a catalyst for depression and sorrow. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Imagine if we modeled truthful, compassionate and respectful speech for our children. What might happen if we whispered sincere compliments and words of encouragement to our child every night before bed? How might he behave differently if we kept all our promises and honored each other with honest and loving language?
We are certain to fail and make mistakes in this endeavor; I already snapped at my son while writing this article! But, through God’s grace I know I’ll be forgiven for my careless words. Next month’s newsletter will talk about apologizing for our mistakes and asking for forgiveness.
Jennifer Jacoby, WDS Mom and Assistant Teacher