The Power of Words

Mother and DaughterWritten by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and I must say that I have the “World’s Best Mom” … hands down. She is the epitome of unconditional love with healthy boundaries. She is my mentor, my best friend, and the heart of our family. I love you, Mom! I also have an amazing daughter and daughter-in-law who are now great moms for the precious children of their unions. All of them honored me with such acts of kindness.

My youngest daughter is 21, still in college, and not married or ready to start a family. She wrote such a beautiful tribute to me. As she was lingering at the refrigerator on Sunday, I walked up behind her to give her a hug and said, “If they lined up all the little girls in the world …” She immediately laughed and said, “I know Mom,” and then finished the sentence. You see, Brittany is the only child in our family who is adopted. She often asked me questions, and I would hold her and tell her sincerely from my heart that if someone lined up all the little girls in the world and told me that I could choose any one I wanted that I would still choose her. These words are now deep in her heart. She has finally not only heard them and memorized them, but now she also truly feels them.

Dr. Phil says it takes 1000 “Atta-boys” to undo just one really hurtful message. This doesn’t mean that you ruin your child if you make a mistake – it means that words are very powerful and they stick. As parents, we owe it to our children to train ourselves to think before speaking.

I will never forget one day when I and my six-year-old son, who is now 34, got into a discussion about my memory. I said there were some things I would never forget. He challenged me and made up a word that he knew I would forget, and we share that secret word to this day.  We still smile and use it routinely to remind us both that words and agreements made 28 years ago still matter.

Every word matters. It is our responsibility as parents to discipline our thoughts and our tongues from the moment our children are born so that we do not wound them. We can take heart in knowing that our feelings often follow our actions. The more we practice respect, kindness, love, and patience with our children, the more we actually feel what we once did simply out of discipline.

Here are five practical tips for keeping your words positive:

1.     Make a commitment to practice being positive by using a patient tone even when you feel like exploding.

2.     Practice smiling! Smiles improve your mood, and your child will benefit from them, too.

3.     Use words of compassion when you might not really care if Sophia likes Evan or if Parker made the team. Sometimes your child just needs to know that you care enough to listen. You can offer her a compassionate tone, a gentle touch, and an empathetic look even when you don’t actually feel that way in the moment. Feelings follow actions.

4.     Listen … even when you think you don’t have the time. Hold your tongue rather than tell your child that you are too busy for him. These words stick. You can always say something like, “Baby, I am very busy, but I’m never too busy for you. What do you need?” It will have an impact on him when you answer like this each time. Find just two minutes to stop, make eye-contact, and assess if he really needs you right now.

5.     Ask for forgiveness when you fail. Model the behavior you desire to see from your children. No one is perfect. When you make a mistake, just apologize and learn from it. Keep working on building a home that is filled with positive affirmation.

This may sound like a cliché, but you will most likely ask yourself, “Is she listening?” when you consistently repeat certain things each day or every week. Nevertheless, keep filling her head with all the words she needs to counteract the negative messages that she will surely hear as she encounters life. Make certain it is your voice ringing clearly in her ears with words of praise, encouragement, affirmation, courage, and support.


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