Most Christians know they’re supposed to talk “nice.”
You know–grace-filled, life-giving words.The problem is that our words pretty much reflect the way we feel, and we often don’t feel grace-filled or life-giving. We often feel exhausted, annoyed, frustrated, and worn down by the unjust, imperfect, and frequently vile world we live in and the far-from-perfect people who populate it. (Including us.)
Then there’s the additional fact that we may feel weary, achy, bleary, and annoyed by bodies that don’t often work the way we’d like them to (this from someone a tad over 30). Sickness, whether it’s ours or the illness of someone we love, is part of the fabric of life. When our kids were small, they never went longer than 10 days without needing to be taken the pediatrician–until they were about eight years old.
It’s easy for parents to feel exasperated and exhausted, discouraged and distracted.
We can be unaware of the things we say about our kids in front of our kids, or simply not think through the realities of our choice of words from our child’s perspective. For instance, we may…
- compare one child’s grades, talents, looks, or abilities to another child’s grades, talents, looks, or abilities (sibling, relative, or friend). This silently tells your child they’re not measuring up, that they’re not as good as other kids. It reinforces the negative message that they should measure themselves against other people to find their value and erodes their self-respect.
- label them according to what they do or how they look (the shy one, the chubby one, the smart one, the athletic one, the beautiful one, the bully, the fearful one, etc.). This can communicate that our kids win our love and approval through their academic success, abilities, appearance, etc. It can also reinforce their own negative self-talk or criticism from peers.
- say negative things about them to other people in front of them. Speaking disparagingly about your child, whether they’re in your presence or not, is disrespectful. Respect runs two ways in healthy relationships. (Speaking honestly to teachers or mentors about areas of learning and character that need work is a different matter.) Take every opportunity to teach and reinforce positive character and integrity in your child (this is not the same as bragging.) Affirm their accomplishments, character growth, and courage on a regular basis.
- yell/scream at them out of exasperation. I struggled with this behavior for years, all the while feeling horribly ashamed. I ultimately had to go to my kids and confess my sinful behavior. But I could never take back the hurt. I knew my rage was toxic and that no child deserved to be spoken to the way that I yelled. I needed to change my heart and my behavior, and I did. If you rage at your children, get help, apologize to them, and help them understand that parents aren’t perfect.
Eight things to tell your children often:
1. I will always love you. No matter what you do as you grow up, I will never stop loving you, and I will never stop being your (mother/father).
2. I will always be proud of you. I may not be proud of everything you do in your life, but I am proud to be your (mother/father) because you are uniquely you. I’m not proud of you just for the things you do. I’m proud of you for who you are.
3. I have your back. No matter what you do as you grow up, I will always do what’s best for you. This doesn’t mean I’ll always do what you like, but I will do what will bring you the greatest good because I love you.
4. You aren’t perfect, and neither am I. Sometimes you’re going to disappoint me, and sometimes I’m going to disappoint you. That’s okay, We’ll pick up and move on.
5. I’m sorry. There will be times when I will need to apologize. I need to teach you to take responsibility when you hurt others or mess up, so I promise to tell you I’m sorry when I make wrong choices that hurt you or let you down.
6. I forgive you. I will not hold grudges or past disappointments against you. I will forgive the way I would want to be forgiven.
7. You are a valuable child of God and worthy of respect. Don’t allow people to deceive you into thinking that you are less than a child of God, worthy of dignity, respect, and value.
8. Respect others and treat them like you want to be treated. All human life is created in the image of God and to be valued. You are no better than anyone else. Treat others with the grace, respect, and dignity you expect.
I must be honest and admit I didn’t hit all these goals in my parenting. I wish I’d been more deliberate. As a grandma, I hope to be more strategic in the words I speak to my grandkids.
What about you? What things do you try to engrain in your children when you speak to them?
Photo Credit: Pixaby