The Power of Words

It was a Friday at 5pm. Carter was in timeout for the fourth time that afternoon, Kate was melting down because I wouldn’t let her use the iPad, and I was on the verge of losing it. I knew my husband’s time at home that night would be brief, as he was quickly turning around to attend a church event that evening, so in order to salvage what little sanity I had left, I loaded up the kids for a little outing.

I had a $10 Kohl’s reward expiring the next day, so away we went to spend it. I let the kids get out and roam the toy section while I perused the clothing racks nearby. Although Carter knew he was not going to get to take a toy home that day as a consequence for not listening, he continued to show me things he’d like to buy, and I continued telling him that only Kate got a toy today. Kate begged me to open (“opa”) everything, and had multiple tantrums as I explained that they were stuck in the boxes. I wasn’t finding what I was looking for, and the kids were driving me nuts, so I grabbed a baby doll for Kate and started to leave.

As I loaded the kids up, I noticed a sales clerk approaching me. My gut instinct was to run, as I was certain she was about to try and sell me a credit card or something, but she stopped me. She asked if she could pay me a compliment. Confused at first, I simply said, “Excuse me?” She then stopped me dead in my tracks, as she said, “I just love the way you are talking to your children.”

Say what?!!!

I looked around the store, certain she meant to stop someone else. Since there was no one else around, I simply said, “Wow. Thank you.” Again, I tried to leave. But, she wanted to say more. “I just appreciate how patient and gentle you speak to them. It’s not always that way. Believe me, I hear a lot of moms working here, and so many of them speak so unkindly to their children.” I was dumbfounded.

This was a day when I felt as if my kids were going to drive me to the looney bin, and I certainly didn’t feel like I had spoken with kindness to them in that store, but it was such a good reminder for me. I lose my temper very easily, and I’ve often found myself saying things to them that immediately caused me guilt and shame. (I distinctly remember one time mumbling something to Kate about finding her a new home when she wouldn’t stop crying at Carter’s first dentist appointment. She was too young to understand me, but hello…low point!)

The words we choose to use with our children have POWER – what our kids hear from us, they internalize. They take those words with them, and those words shape them into the man or woman they become. Everyday, I find myself using words that I heard myself growing up. (And many times, it’s the things I always swore I’d NEVER say to my own kids! How does that happen?!!)

So, the next time I find myself telling my kids to sit down and eat their dinner “because I said so,” I hope I also find myself encouraging, supporting, and building them up, as I remember that the words they hear from me now will stay with them long after.      

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