It always amazes me how little attention we pay to what we say. As parents, I don't think we realize the import of what we say to our children. Our words are very influential and therefore, we really have to think before we speak. I came across this image, which sums up what we should do before we speak.
Many of us, myself included, sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment and react verbally. We blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, instead of reflecting, even for a moment what the possible impact of our words may be. There is a nursery rhyme that I remember as a child about sticks and stones. I am sure many of you are familiar with that rhyme. Many of us were taught this as a mantra to comfort us whenever we were on the receiving end of verbal assaults. I personally don't remember it being an effective balm for my wounds.
It is not just the words that we say directly to our children, but also the words we say about them. I don't know how many of you are aware of this, but kids have ears. They hear very well, especially what is said about them. Sometimes, they may appear to be engrossed in play, but later on, they may come to you with a comment or a question related to whatever you were saying in their presence. They are indeed paying close attention, despite appearing to be distracted. Thus, it is crucial that you watch your mouth and not say derogatory or mean things about your children in their presence.
Several weeks ago, I was interviewing a mother about her moderately overweight twenty-four month old boy's diet. I was shocked to hear her say, "my son is like a garbage can, he eats anything and everything." I must admit that I was at a loss for words. I did not expect to hear such an outrageous statement, and I had no reply. I guess I missed a good opportunity to offer some words of advice. It was obvious to me that her son was not disappointing her, and in fact would continue to eat as she expected. I will not be surprised if he continues to have a weight problem for the rest of his childhood. One thing for sure is that our words have a lot of power. We need to choose and use our words wisely.
Another reason that I decided to remind my readers about the power of our words is because of an experience I had last week. While I was in Carriacou, evaluating patients at CHS, a nurse mentioned to me that one of the mothers said that she does not like to take her toddler out because she is too ugly. I was surprised because I honestly thought that every mother thinks her child is the most beautiful. Especially since mothers are known to be biased and because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
When I saw the little girl in her long floral dress I thought she had a nice smile and a pleasant disposition. I did not see anything "ugly" about her. Her mom was young and attractive and had a nice smile as well. Looking at the two of them together, I nearly did not believe the report of the nurse, but I then realized that the nurse would have no reason to lie. The first question that came to my mind was who had told the mother that about herself when she was little? Obviously, this mom must have had and may still have low self esteem to be saying such derogatory things about her own daughter in her presence.
Let us endeavour to love our children not only in deeds but also in our words. Try to use words of encouragement and love to them. Let them hear you speaking positively about them to others. Research has shown that it is much more effective to discipline with positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement. In other words, it is easier to get a child to repeat a behaviour by giving compliments and praise when they do something right, than to berate them and embarrass them when they do something wrong. Try it yourself and see. Try to catch your son or daughter doing something right, then knowledge and thank them, and see how quickly the behaviour will be repeated.
Yours in health and wellness,
P.S. this can be applied successfully to spouses as well.