The funny thing about words is that once they are out of your mouth you can’t take them back. My oldest daughter, who teaches middle school, often does an “experiment” with some of her classes. She gives each one a little tube of toothpaste and blank sheet of paper. She then tells them to squeeze all of the toothpaste onto the paper. They do and often have a lot of fun doing it. When everyone is finished she tells them to put the toothpaste back in the tube. They all look at her pretty funny and tell her that putting it back is impossible. Which is exactly what she wants them to say. She goes on to explain that words are like toothpaste. That once they are out you can never put them back.
She does this with her middle schoolers to help them understand the concept of bullying and helping them realize how powerful words are. It is a great lesson and hopefully one that they will all remember throughout their lives.
As parents, we must also realize how powerful our words are. I never called any of my children stupid ( a word that I dislike intensely and would not let my children ever say) but I know that “Why did you do that again?” and “How many times have I told you…” definitely came out of my mouth. Those seemingly innocent words unfortunately had a negative impact on my children pretty similar to what it would have been had I used the word stupid. They knew when they made mistakes – they did not need me to point it out and make them feel small and inadequate. What they needed was my support, my understanding and my empathy. And if appropriate they needed me to stay calm, give them their consequence and then let it go and get on with life.
So…the next time you are frustrated, or your child has done something for the millionth time, stop and think before you say…