“The way that we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
Words are one of the most powerful tools that we possess. Our words can be used to accomplish incredible things, but our words can also be used to create immense damage. Our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, summed up the power of words well when he said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Lincoln was stating that words, whether spoken or written, carry an undeniable authority. This is a lesson that each parent must lean into and learn. The hard truth is that how we speak to our children will have a far greater impact on how they behave and what they believe about themselves than almost anything else we do. The wisdom literature of Proverbs chapter 15 states the impact of words this way: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause arguments.” Our words literally have the power to calm our children or we can use our words to “cause arguments.” More importantly, our kids will mirror and become what we speak over them. If we speak negativity, harsh words and we make them feel like we are constantly connecting their behavior with who they are as a human then they will begin to live up to our damaging and discouraging words. Right about now you might be thinking to yourself “Great. This is convicting, but what should I do to change?” Maybe you’re even thinking “That all sounds good, but you don’t understand how hard it is to speak life to my child.” Wherever you are on the journey of parenting, I would like you to consider these five tips for speaking life into your littles. Also, just as a bit of a side note, remember that it’s never too late to begin doing the right thing. Just because you have traditionally used your words to tear down your kids (or kid) in the past (every parent everywhere has been guilty of this at least once), doesn’t mean that you can’t decide to change how you are going to act moving forward. Now, here are five keys for speaking life into your littles:
1. Gain control over your emotions before you speak.
Half of the challenge in speaking life to our kids is solved when we can have the discipline not to react to terror in the moment. We must, as often as possible, permit ourselves some time to gain control over our own emotions before we can begin to properly guide and correct our child / children.
2. Make sure that you speak from love.
If you feel yourself becoming angry before or as you speak to your littles, you can be sure that what you are about to say will ultimately do more harm than good. The emotions behind our words can often have a greater impact than the intent behind what we are trying to communicate.
3. Focus on “can” instead of “can’t.”
When we tell our littles what they can’t do all the time it’s very easy to crush their curiosity and, because of fear, cause them to suppress their creativity. However, when we can reaffirm for our children what they can do, it is more likely that we are going help them to see the better choices that they can make in the future. For example – If my son drops a bowl of watermelon on the floor as we’re getting ready to leave the house, I could say… “Eli! You can’t do that! Daddy never asked you to help carry that! Ughhh!” or I could say… “Eli. I know that were trying to help daddy by carrying that big bowl of watermelon, but if you’re ever struggling to carry something then you can always ask daddy to help you.”
4. Schedule times of encouragement.
This one may feel a little awkward and maybe even forced at first, but how might it impact your child if you made it a point to specifically praise them at least once each day. You could even speak words of life over them that are not “yet” true. You will be amazed at what this kind of positive and life-giving exercise will do to encourage your child towards the kind of person that you know they can be.
5. Schedule more time “in.”
If we truly want to evoke a change in our children, it’s important to spend time with them. However – the challenge for many of us, as the result of so many distractions, is to spend quality time. That’s right quality time is almost always more important than the quantity of time we give our children. Each of us spend “time” with our children, but how much of that time do we truly connect without involving other distractions. Our children will mirror our actions, and if they learn to value time in and together you will see a vast improvement. When our children act out or mis-behave they are telling us that they need “time-in”, now it’s up to you on how you want to spend it.