Words can build up; words can tear down… this is true in the words we use regarding our children. Unfortunately, moms can often be heard openly griping about their children.
I believe that we have to be intentional and thoughtful in the words we speak TO or ABOUT our children. And I believe those words ought to be kind, hopeful words– Christian women should use life-giving words that honor children as special gifts from God.
WORDS CAN TEAR DOWN
Words like these can be so hurtful and damaging (both to our children, and to the attitudes/hearts of people to whom we are speaking):
- “Newborns are dull.”
- “Terrible Twos”
- “Being a mom of little ones is drudgery.”
- “Sooooooo thankful for daycare.”
- “He is DRIVING. ME. CRAZY!!”
- “Mommy can’t wait for them to get back to school!”
- “Just like her father/grandfather/sister” (in a negative tone– obviously this can be said in a positive tone too)
- “Little miss know-it-all”
- “Bull in a china shop”
- “Typical sibling rivalry”
- “She’s a little MONSTER!!!”
- “I never get a moment’s peace!”
- “You know how GIRLS are.”
- “You know how BOYS are.”
- “You know how toddlers are.”
- “You know how TEENAGERS are.”
- “Thinks he knows everything.”
- “He doesn’t want to listen to his mama, do you buddy?” (Analyze that for a minute– what is being reinforced in the way he views/treats his mom? and what kind of relationship is being defined there– a parent/child one or a buddy/buddy one?)
I can already hear some protests– “oh come on, lighten up. You’ve gotta let off a little steam every now and then.”
Or even some sarcasm: “Right, Jess… like you always, only, say good things?!!”
I’m a words girl. I love words. I love how they merge and work together to communicate and illuminate. I don’t do perfectly in this area, but my goal is to be aware, careful, and in line with biblical truth in how I talk about my children.
Jesus is called “The Word.” He used words (not images, not feelings, not paintings, not data) to communicate the truth about Himself. I think God thinks that words matter.
Here are some examples:
- “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Mt 15:18)
- “Reckless words are like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov 12:18)
- “On the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak.” (Mt 12:36)
- “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov 18:21)
- “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Prov 16:24)
- “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also for them.” (Mt 7:12)
- “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” (Prov 14:1)
- “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Ps 141:3)
Words are an INDICATOR– of something DEEPER.
Labels pronounced upon our children, and words hastily spoken about our children– these things are indicators of deeper things within us. The things we think come out in our words. So it’s really not only our words that I’m addressing, but also the heart attitudes to which they point.
Our words reveal internal attitudes:
Often, I believe these kinds of words are pointing to something we ought to DO SOMETHING ABOUT, rather than just gripe about.
To take the last example up there, spoken to a fictitious cashier or Sunday school teacher–
“He doesn’t want to listen to his mama, do you buddy?”
The right thing to do, at that point, is not to joke about it, but to actively work on it as a genuine problem in his life. The attitude has been identified (he bucks mom and does not want to honor or listen to what she says), and the next step is to deal with it.
“Newborns are so dull.”
Well, perhaps they are, to you. But they aren’t to everyone. They are not, in and of themselves, dull. They are each uniquely-designed little people, fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who custom-fitted every part, down to the fingerprint.
The first problem with this is that you’re not counseling your own heart rightly. You’re believing lies about the new life placed in your home. But in addition, by speaking things like this out loud, you are unnecessarily coloring someone else’s view of what might be (for her, one day, if she isn’t too scared off or put off by descriptions of “dullness” like this) a God-full, miraculous season of joy and wonder.
One more example:
“I never get a moment’s peace!”
Whose fault is that? Is your child supposed to come out of the womb magically knowing that you are a separate person with individual needs and desires? Is your toddler supposed to, of his own will, selflessly opt to read quietly for a solid hour so you can have a chunk of relative silence each day?
No. You must teach that. It is not your child’s fault that you don’t have “a moment’s peace.”
Here’s the thing: you being “bored” says more about you than about your surroundings. You not getting a moment’s peace says more about what you haven’t taught your child to do and be, than about your child. An attitude that says, “I can’t wait for them to get out of my hair and get back in school” tells the world something about you, and will color how they see your children as well (as annoyances– I mean, let’s be honest, if the mom thinks they’re miserable to be around, then what are the rest of us supposed to think?).
THINK: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?
I’m absolutely not encouraging us to speak untrue things about our children, but to be intentional and thoughtful in the words that we speak.
Catch the words before they come out of your mouth and examine them.
- If “she’s been a little pill lately”, what are you doing to consistently, firmly stand against that?
- If “he’s being a punk to his brother”, doesn’t that merit your attention?
- If “you can’t wait” to have them out of your hair, what does that say about you, and about them?
In each instance, consider: is there something that needs to be done to deal with that? What needs to change?
And if you’ve just grown lax in how you speak about them, let me challenge you to take a step back and choose words that give life. Choose words that “build” your home and that build up the people who live there. Use words that encourage and “hope all things”, as 1 Corinthians 13 says is loving.
When speaking about our children, let’s be women who carefully choose our words.