Tag Archive for power of words

Listen to Yourself…For Your Kid’s Sake

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Words are powerful.” I’m not the first to say it. Many have said it before and many will say it again. Why? Because it’s true…words are powerful. Words shape our world. They shape our families. They shape our children and our children’s thought patterns. If we constantly call our children “lazy” or “selfish,” we will see them as such. On the other hand, if we call our children “funny” or “caring,” we will see them as “funny” and “caring.” In other words, the way we see our children is shaped by the words we use to describe them.

The words we use to describe our children also impact how they begin to see themselves. When we speak of our children as “lazy,” they begin to see themselves as “lazy.” When we speak of them as “caring”, they begin to see themselves as “caring.” As you can see, the way we talk to and about our children has a huge impact. That means we need to listen carefully to our words. We need to listen to hear what kind of message our words communicate to and about our children. Hear are some words to listen for…and change.

  • Name calling. Everyone knows name calling has a negative impact on children. But name calling can also be made in subtle statements. “Don’t be stupid” is a subtle way to call someone “stupid.” “Don’t you every think” is paramount to calling someone “stupid” or “careless.” “Do you ever do anything but sit around?” is really calling someone “lazy.” “Your room is a pigsty” sounds a lot like calling your child a “pig.” Not only are such statements disrespectful, they don’t create a desire to change. Instead, they can lead to resentment, self-deprecation, and hopelessness. Why not simply say what you mean in clear, respectful language? Instead of saying “Don’t be stupid” ask them what they are trying to accomplish and how their actions will accomplish it. Rather than accuse them of “always sitting around,” help them think about activities they can do. Don’t just label the “room a pigsty,” tell them to clean it up, give reasons you want them to have a clean room, and explain the consequence of not cleaning their room. You are more likely to get the results you want. You will also teach your children respect and communication at the same time. (Read The Power of Words for more the impact of words.)
  • “You’re such a smart girl (boy).” Global labels like smart, clever, or good hinder your children’s progress. They often lead to children becoming less persistent and even doubting themselves (Build Your Child’s Success Mindset). Instead, ask your children what they did to achieve that grade or how it felt to accomplish that task. Focusing on effort and the results of effort leads to children who are more persistent and adventurous.
  • “Because I said so.” Let’s face it…it’s just more respectful to offer a reason for a limit, request, or rule rather than simply expect blind obedience. We don’t want our children to respond with blind obedience to all demands and requests they receive. We want them to think for themselves. Learning the “why” behind rules will help them internalize healthy rules and learn to think for themselves. So, rather than simply say “because I said so,” offer an explanation that your children will understand. (Read Because I Said So to learn an excellent alternative to the statement “Because I said so.”)
  • “Calm down” or “quit crying before I give you something to cry about.” Both statements minimize and dismiss children’s emotions. It teaches them to deny their emotions. And, no one ever responds to “quit trying” with “You’re right. I really have nothing to cry about so I’ll just stop right now, smile, and be happy.” You can help your children learn to manage emotions by teaching them to label emotions rather than dismiss emotions. When children learn to “name it” they can “tame it” when it comes to emotions. Talking helps them calm down.

Listen to yourself over the next week. Do you say any of the four statements described above? If so, work at replacing them with better alternatives. You’ll be surprised at the difference it will make for your children and your relationship with your children!

Speak Spring Into Your Marriage

I love spring. After the long, cold, and dark winter, spring is so invigorating. Daylight pushes the night back as the warm sun peeks through the trees. The air warms. Grass turns lush and green. Trees bud, blossom, and fill in the empty spaces between branches. Squirrels scurry to gather provisions hidden through the winter. “Butterflies flutter by.” Birds sing as their eggs hatch. I love spring.  It invites us to open our doors and let fresh air fill our homes. It calls us to walk among the blooming colors and play in the green grass with those we love.

Did I say I love spring? Well, I do. In fact, I want the environment of spring to fill my home and surround my family all year long. I know outdoor seasons change but I also know how to keep spring in my family’s heart all year round. And, you can do it too! It’s simple really. All you need to do is commit to this one action every day. At most it will take a couple of minutes, but it will bring the fresh air of spring flowing into your home and the blush of new blossoms adding beauty to your relationships. One action for a happier spring-like atmosphere in your home. Here it is:

Every day commit to praising each family member for something they did during the day. Catch each person doing something right and tell them so. Offer them praise. Focus the praise on one specific act you witnessed during the day.

That’s it. Simply offer a word of praise or gratitude to each family member every day. Sounds simple, but “life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Solomon-Proverbs 18:21). Use your tongue to offer a specific praise to your spouse, parent, and each child daily and you will bring the new life of spring into your home and family!

Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace

My wife, my daughter, and I went to a choral concert presented by the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh entitled PEACE.  We heard several composers’ choral renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace. We also heard various testimonies and readings from three people who have invested their lives in various avenues of promoting peace within our communities. The whole experience was beautiful, inspiring, and peaceful. Then we left the concert setting and returned to the world of confusion, animosity, and conflict.

Peace seems so distant in our immediate environment of division, antagonism, and hostility. Everywhere we turn dissonant, hateful chatter rises up and floods over the banks of polite boundaries and congenial discourse. Fear and anxiety, resentment and hostility are infecting the lives of our children. Peace seems, at times, a distant dream. But, as we listened attentively to the various renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem and contemplated the readings offered, I realized peace is not so distant after all. Peace is very near. It begins with a God of peace who “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist….” Peace is our original design. Peace destroyed was restored through the sacrifice of One Man who “is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Paul—Ephesians 2:15). The One who sacrificed for our peace has “proclaimed peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Paul—Ephesians 2:17). Since we have been given peace it is very near to us. We need only open it, pursue it, and promote it (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14).

In all reality, pursuing and promoting peace are integral aspects of our daily life. We can pursue peace by sharing polite words with those you meet. We promote peace by listening, really listening, to understand those who speak. We pursue peace by opening doors for others, literally and figuratively. We promote peace in patiently merging into the various streams of life with others and generously allowing others to merge into those same streams of life. We encourage peace by offering words that build up instead of words that tear down, words that bless instead of words that curse.  We promote peace when we lift one another up, even those who disagree with you, rather than shaming and ridiculing. We nurture peace when we forgive those who have offended and apologize to those you offend.

Truly, peace is closer than we think…but it takes the investment of our words and actions. Begin the peace investment in your home as you treat your spouse, your children, and your parents with honor and dignity, decency and grace. As we do, our families will become the catalyst for peace in our communities. Yes, peace is closer than we think. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace.

Deposits to Your Child’s Bank of Honor

Strong families make multiple, daily deposits into the Family Bank of Honor (Read Family Bank of Honor for more ideas on making investments in the Family Bank of Honor). We not only expect children to make deposits into the overall Family Bank of Honor, but we need to make deposits into their honor accounts as well. But, certain phrases cheapen our deposits.  These phrases take the value away from an attempted deposit and make it empty. Instead of using phrases that cheapen our deposits, the whole family will benefit when we use phrases that enrich our deposits. Let me give you a few examples.

  • “No problem” tends to cheapen the deposit. It raises an implicit question, a subtle doubt so to speak. Did we do “it” simply because it was “no problem”? Would we have valued our child enough to do it if it was difficult or problematic? A better phrase, one that will enrich the deposit might be “I am glad to do it for you,” “I enjoyed doing it for you,” or even the infamous, “My pleasure.” These statements enrich the deposit by noting you did it because you valued the person and enjoy doing things with and for them.
  • “That’s a good boy/girl” is another phrase that cheapens a deposit. Saying “good boy/girl” implies that your child is good only because of whatever they did or are doing that prompted the statement. It suggests their “goodness” is based on performance, not inherent worth. Rather than applying the label of “good” to your child, make note of their effort. Or note one aspect of their work that you admire. For instance, “You worked hard on that project.” “I like the colors you chose.” Noting effort enriches the deposit and encourages a “growth mindset” and persistence (Growing Your Child’s Mind for Success), both important for success.
  • “Stop crying. It’s OK.” This phrase is often said in an attempt to comfort our children. But it cheapens the deposit into their honor bank by disregarding and minimizing their emotions. You can accomplish the same goal (providing comfort and nurturance) while enriching the deposit by saying things like “That really hurts” or “Can I do something to help you feel better.” Sometimes you will not even need to say anything to make an enriching deposit. Simply give your child a comforting hug. You can further enrich a “hug deposit” by saying “I love you” while you hug them.
  • “You’re so lazy/smart (you pick the label).” Anytime we apply a global label to our child, whether a positive or a negative label, we have, at best, cheapened the deposit into their honor account. Avoid negative labels because they actually make withdrawals from your child’s honor accounts. Positive labels lead to a “fixed mindset” (Read Build Your Child’s Success Mindset for more) that will hinder growth and success. Instead, enrich the deposit by acknowledging specific behaviors you like or behaviors you would like to see changed.  For instance, “You studied hard and learned a lot for that test” or “Your practice really paid off.” On the negative side, “You chose to watch TV all day, so now your project is going to be late.” Addressing specific behaviors and their consequences enriches deposits into the Bank of Honor.
  • “Wait until your father/mother gets home.” On first glance, this statement may not appear to influence the bank of honor. However, it cheapens deposits into your child’s bank of honor by giving your power away to the other parent. Without power all your deposits become weaker, less valuable. Only powerful people can make priceless deposits. Rather than “wait ’til your father gets home” to address a behavior, address it in the moment. You can still address it when your partner arrives home, but address it in the moment as well. By doing so you enrich all your deposits into your child’s bank of honor.

I think you get the idea. Some statements cheapen deposits into the bank of honor. Others will enrich the deposit. Fill your children’s banks of honor with enriching statements that pay rich dividends of joy and maturity.

Build Your Child’s Success Mindset

I overheard two college students talking about their classes. I was eating a bagel but I couldn’t help overhearing. Their conversation went something like this:

“I can’t believe you got an ‘A’ on that test. I’m just not that good at math. But you’re smart.”

“Not really. I just sat with the study group and reviewed everything. That was a big help.”

Did you catch the difference in how these two students talked about success? Only the second student talked about studying and believed it helpful. “To study or not to study” flows from the student’s belief systems about self and growth. The first student seemed to believe her math knowledge is fixed. She’s “just not that good at math.” The second student believes study can lead to improvement. In fact, participating in a study group “was a big help.” Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, would likely say the first student shows a fixed mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes intelligence and ability are fixed or unchangeable. They spend time protecting their fixed ability by avoiding challenges and only engaging in activities in which they know they can succeed and, by succeeding, maintain their image. They tend to look at the end result for validation rather than the process and effort invested.

The second student displays more of what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe intelligence and abilities can be developed. They embrace challenges and persist in the face of obstacles. They persist because they believe effort will help them grow. When they encounter failure, they consider it an opportunity to learn what they can do differently to obtain greater success in the future.  For instance, they might try a different strategy, focus on a different detail, or develop a certain skill to help them experience future success. In other words, success comes through effort and intentionally improving strategies and skills.

As you can imagine, a growth mindset creates greater possibility for success. Fortunately, parents can help their children develop a growth mindset, one that focuses on the effort, strategies, and process that contribute to success. Parents teach children a growth mindset in the way they talk to their children. Consider the following examples.

Statements Promoting a Fixed Mindset Statements Promoting a Growth Mindset
“You’re really good at that.” “You put a lot of work into that.”
“You did poorly on that test. I guess it’s not your subject.” “You did badly on that test—what did you learn from the ones you missed?”
“You’re the only one who scored.” “What made you keep working so hard to score?”
“Nice job on that piano piece.” “Wow. That took a lot of practice. How will you challenge yourself to keep practicing the next one?”
“You are a good artist.” “I like the colors you chose. How have you worked to improve your talent?”
“That’s just not in your skill set, is it?” “What strategies might help you improve?”
“That was a terrible performance.” “What did you learn from that performance?”
“We won. That was a great game.” “What did you and your team do to make this game go so well.”
“I can’t get this.” “This is a challenge for you. What strategies have you tried? What new strategies could you try?”
“That was a big fail.” “It’s OK to take a risk. What can you do different next time after what you learned today?

Changing statements and questions from those that promote a fixed mindset to those that promote a growth mindset will help your children develop a growth mindset…and that will increase their chances of experiencing success in life!

The Key to Love…or Disdain

“A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her ears.”–Woodrow Wyatt

If Woodrow Wyatt is right, men and women have different keys when it comes to love. A key and heartkey to a man’s love begins with his eyes. If this is true, you can use this key to increase intimacy with your husband. Dress nicely now and again rather than always slumping around in your “comfy clothes.” When you go on a date, pick out clothes that you know appeal to your husband. You likely did this while dating. Why not keep it up after you’re married? Make an effort to put on nice clothes, fix your hair, and smile admiringly at your husband on a regular basis. It will go a long way in unlocking his love.

A key to a woman’s love begins in her ears. Use this key to gain intimacy with your wife. Speak words of appreciation and adoration for your wife. Encourage her often. Verbalize your feelings of love on a regular basis. Let your words reveal your fondness and admiration for your wife. Speak words of love and affection, appreciation and adoration, fondness and admiration daily. This will unlock her love for you in amazing ways.

These keys have a flipside. They can create intimacy when used properly; but, on the flipside, they will create disdain if misused or ignored. Wives, if you make no attempt to look nice for your husband, he may begin to think you don’t care. He will feel unimportant because you “dress up for work, but never for him.” He will feel as though you rate him second to all those activities and places for which you dress up. He may even begin to feel disrespected. He may feel cheated and deceived because you “dressed up when we were dating but now you don’t care enough about me.” A man who feels disrespected will begin to drift to those places where he feels more respect. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Use the key of his eyes to keep him close.

Men, if you neglect to speak words of affirmation and admiration to your wife, she will begin to doubt your love. She will feel unappreciated and unloved. She may even begin to feel worse about herself, inadequate and filled with self-doubt. If you call her names or call her character into question through the words you speak, she will begin to despise you. Her disdain for you will grow with every negative comment you make. Eventually, love will die. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Speak words of love and tenderness. Use the key of her ears to keep her close.

Of course the eyes and ears are not the only keys to love. But, they do provide one key you can use to deepen the intimacy with your spouse and strengthen your marriage. The nice thing is…you hold the key!

Six Ingredients to Strengthen Your Parental Authority

Children develop and mature best with parents who practice benevolent authority in the home. Children gain a sense of security knowing their parents not only have power, but use that power to establish and enforce a loving structure in the home. Still, not just any authority will do. Children benefit most from a benevolent authority in their life, not a harsh or permissive authority. If we want to establish a benevolent authority in our home, we must include these six ingredients:

  1. parenting challengeRelationship is the first and foremost ingredient in building a strong parental authority. Authority flows from relationship. The knowledge that we love our children no matter what they do or say gives us a legitimate authority in their eyes. A strong loving relationship with our children gives our authority credibility. Build your relationships with your children and you strengthen your authority in their lives as well.
  2. Next, add a healthy dose of empathy and compassion to create a strong and healthy parental authority. When we love our children, we hurt when they hurt. We want to relieve their suffering and ease their struggle. At times, we will relive their suffering; at other times we will let them suffer the consequences of their actions because we love them. Even then we will empathize with their disappointments and discomfort. They will recognize our empathy, even if they never admit it to us. I have heard many people note that the worst part of being disciplined by a loving parent is seeing the hurt in their parent’s eyes. Our compassion and empathy for our children adds weight to our authority in their eyes.
  3. Parental authority also demands a generous dose of longsuffering. We do not use the term “longsuffering” very much today. However, longsuffering, in combination with compassion, is an important ingredient in parental authority. We hate to see our children suffer, even when that suffering results from their own choices and actions. We suffer long when we lovingly allow our children to experience the consequences of their choices and actions. But, that “longsuffering” pays great dividends over time. When we allow longsuffering to temper our compassion, we will witness our children maturing through the consequences of their actions and choices. The ability to not jump in to rescue our children, but to “suffer long” instead, strengthens our authority as wise and sacrificial parents.
  4. Brevity and an economy of words will add oomph to our parental authority as well. Yelling, lecturing, and nagging will minimize our authority. If our children learn we will say something over and over (lecturing, nagging), they quit listening. If they know we are not going to follow through until we yell, they will wait for us to yell before taking action. In other words, our children learn our words have no weight and carry no power when we yell, lecture, or nag. When we simply state an expectation without lecturing, nagging, or yelling, our words become authoritative. When we follow our words with simple consequences, our children learn we have authority, our words have meaning. And, they learn to listen. They learn to respect authority.
  5. A similar ingredient in parental authority is silence. Yes; silence is powerful. Silence allows our children time to think and process what was requested or expected. As our children think and process, they internalize the values and expectations we are teaching them in silence. Give them space to think.
  6. The final, but not the least, ingredient in parental authority is consistency. A parent with a strong authoritative presence will consistently relate to their children with compassion and longsuffering, making requests and stating expectation with an economy of words. Sure, we will make mistakes; but consistent effort will strengthen a healthy, loving authority our relationship with our children.

 

A healthy parental authority does not come easy. It flows from relationship and is strengthened by consistent compassion and longsuffering. Practice it wisely and you and your children will find great benefits.

Hard Words for a Strong Family Bond

Some things are difficult to say. They leave us vulnerable and at the mercy of the other person. These same phrases, however, are often the statements most necessary to preserve and strengthen our relationships with our spouses, children, and parents.  These difficult statements are actually treasures of the heart that we protect with great caution. Let me share some of these treasures—difficult statements that can strengthen your family relationships even though we struggle to give them voice. Practice them as often as needed.hearts in the sand

  • I’m sorry.
  • You were right.
  • I was wrong.
  • I need your help.
  • I don’t know.
  • Will you forgive me?
  • I’m hurt.
  • I deserve what I get because I really messed up.
  • I’m letting this go. (And then really doing it.)
  • I’m scared.
  • I forgive you.
  • Good-bye. (i.e., to a family member leaving for college.)
  • I do. (As in “who gives this woman to be married?” “I do.”)

 

Let me end with a quote from Stephen King that describes difficult words to say…and the need to state them.

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them—words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” –Stephen King

10 Family Sayings You Can Take to the Bank

There are certain phrases that every family needs to practice on a consistent basis. These sayings are priceless. You can take them to the bank–the Family Bank of Honor that is–and get a great return on your investment. So, here is an investment challenge: make an intentional effort to include these phrases in your daily interactions with your spouse and children.

  •  Family Bank of HonorI love you.
  • I am proud of you.
  • I love watching you…(fill in the sentence with the activity the participate in).
  • You really put a lot of effort into that project…and it shows.
  • Thank you.
  • I am sorry. Will you forgive me?
  • I really admire/appreciate your…(end the sentence with a character trait in your child or spouse that you admire).
  • What are your plans for today?
  • I enjoy doing things with you.
  • I was thinking about you today.

 

These 10 family sayings will build up your spouse and your children, enhance each person’s sense of significance and value, and increase family intimacy…priceless!

6 Phrases to Avoid in Families

I remember the saying, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” I see the truth of that statement more and more as I age. Some things are just better left unsaid. Here are six phrases that are better left unsaid in families. These phrases can devastate family relationship and family members.

  • Person Annoyed by Others Talking“Can you be more like…?” “Your brother never did that!” Comparisons diminish people. They wreak havoc on a positive self-image. Most comparisons place the listener on the negative end of the comparison. But, even being on the positive end of a comparison tears a person’s self-image down. No matter the comparison, the person being compared is thrust into a competition for acceptance and value, one in which they are always at risk of falling on the negative side. Avoid the risk; don’t compare.
  • “I should have never gotten married.” “I wish I could just get out of this place.” Any threat of separation, divorce, or leaving—whether it be direct or indirect, blatant or subtle—increases fear, insecurity, and distrust in the person making the threat and in the overall family stability. Insecurity, fear, and mistrust results in misbehaviors tantrums, arguing, clinging, and other behaviors that strain a family and demand your attention.
  • “My mother says….” “When I grew up, my family….” “You’re acting just like your mother (or father).” Bringing the in-laws or grandparents into every family argument is a sure way to push your spouse away. Whether you praise your own family or criticize your spouse’s family, you will alienate your spouse. When you marry, you leave your father and mother to form a new family with your spouse. Sure, our parents can provide us with a model to emulate and offer us advice on occasion, but our conflicts belong to use. Our decisions are ours to make, our traditions for us to establish, and our lives for us to shape. So, leave the in-laws out of it.
  • “It’s about time you….” “Good job, finally!” “Yeah, that was a smart decision.” Sarcasm and back-handed compliments do not build stronger family relationships. They break down relationships and people. They make others feel like they “are not good enough” and can “never do enough to make you happy.” Ultimately, they make us feel unaccepted, inadequate, and unworthy.
  • “Why are you upset? You have no reason to be upset!” “You like this and you know it.” “That does not hurt; now quit crying!” Telling family members what they like and how they feel is intrusive. It communicates a belief that you know them and can manage their inner life of emotions and thoughts better than they can themselves. It sounds rather arrogant, doesn’t it? It also makes them feel like something is wrong with them. It produces an extreme sense of guilt and inadequacy. It creates a sense of dependence. Let your family members tell you what they like and how they feel. You can simply take the time to listen…and learn.
  • “How come you never…?” “Why do I always have to yell to make you…?” When absolutes (words like “never” and “always”) enter into family conversations it “always” spells trouble…oops, I mean it “often” means trouble. Absolutes are powerful words that imply unchanging traits, no exceptions, never right, and always wrong. These phrases damage a person’s self-image and motivation. They replace understanding with resentment and intimacy with bitterness. If you hear absolutes coming out of your mouth, slow down and recall times that counter the absolute…then watch your perspective of the person’s behavior change. Rather than using absolutes, focus on the specific, temporary situation being dealt with.

 

These six phrases can devastate family members and family relationships. Avoid them. Even better, replace them with phrases of encouragement, love, and appreciation.

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