“Words are alive. Cut them and they bleed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anyone with experience on the recess playground knows exactly what Emerson means by that. Words hurt. There’s no doubt about it. They possess the power to discourage, depress, and destroy. I don’t think anyone would argue that our words need to be used carefully, but how does this apply to parenthood?
I stumbled across an article that really made me wonder: Yelling At Kids Could Be Just As Harmful As Physical Discipline. After reading, I must confess I think they have a good point. The words we bellow at our kids can certainly be harmful.
I grew up with a mom who yelled at me, though not all the time or anything. You might have grown up with that as well. But if you’ve been a parent for very long, you know that it can be ever so frustrating when that little person doesn’t do what you want them to. I wouldn’t say that my mom’s yelling was abusive, caused me to be depressed or to act out more as the study suggests. But I do agree with two principles here.
First, I’ve been a parent long enough to know that yelling at my kids rarely causes them to truly respond the way I want them to. Oh sure, they may actually get up and do whatever I asked them to do, but their attitude still stinks and they are likely to repeat the same behavior until I yell at them again. Hardly the life-long character training I’m hoping for.
Second, sticks and stones can break your bones and if the words I am yelling ATTACK my children then I am probably harming them. To be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of yelling where the little tyke won’t stop kicking your seat and your turn around and bellow, “STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” I mean the kind of yelling that says, “What’s wrong with you? or “Why can’t you ever do anything right?”
As parents, we must think AS MUCH about the message we are sending as the actual words we utter. We must consider the warning of the Bible. With every word uttered, we speak either life or death (Proverbs 18:21). There’s no in between. With every word, we are either encouraging our children in the admonition of the Lord or we are tearing them down. With every word, we are teaching a lesson. The question is…what are we REALLY saying?
7 Things a Parent Should Never Say Again
1. What were you thinking?
What you are really saying—> Why are you so stupid? You are always messing things up.
2. How many times have I told you?
What you are really saying—> Can’t you seriously get this right? Why can’t you remember every single thing I tell you? (By the way, the answer to that first question is no. Read the Old Testament. We can’t get it right. If we could, there would be no need for Jesus.)
3. Why can’t you be like your brother?
What you are really saying—> You are not good enough the way God made you. I want you to be someone else.
4. She is just acting that way because she’s tired.
What you are really saying—> I’m okay with my child acting this way. In fact, when I’m tired I often lay on the floor and throw a fit, too. And of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to make excuses for disrespectful or lazy behavior.
5. Clean up your room, ok?
What you are really saying—> (By using the tiny word “OK”) If it’s ok with you, will you obey this command I have given you? (No, I’m not advocating that it’s a bad thing to tell your child to clean their room.)
6. Do I have to count to three?
What you are really saying—> I don’t require you to obey me all the time, just when I get mad enough to count. Oh, and feel free to come when I get to three instead of when I ask.
7. That’s just the way he/she is.
What you are really saying—> Inappropriate behavior is acceptable if it’s a regular habit. After all, there are some things that we can not overcome. (Umm…need I point out here that God says the exact opposite…with Him ALL things are possible! Matt. 19:26)
8. We messed him/her up and it’s too late to change it.
What you are really saying—> God isn’t big enough to cover our mistakes.
Yes, I threw in an extra one for good measure. I know you probably don’t say this to your kids, but it’s ever so tempting to think thoughts like that after reading a challenging post. It’s absolutely not true.
So what should you do if you have a habit of saying these types of things to your children?
- Repent and ask God to help you speak life into your family. He will!
- Tell your children when you mess up and say the wrong thing, asking them for forgiveness. Never be too proud to do what is right!
- Look for creative consequences for kids that you can use instead of getting angry.
- Consider doing a Bible study that will help your kids WANT to obey.
- Take each day one step at a time. We are a work in progress and no one gets it right all the time. God looks at the HEART! (1 Sam.16:7) If you are striving daily to make changes, God sees that effort, not your mistakes!
Your turn—> Can you think of anything else that parents should never say? Share them with us so that we can all grow and learn from each other!
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