“The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).” What wakes us up more to this truth than becoming a mother and seeing the immediate impact of our words in the eyes of our children? There’s the joy of when those eyes light up with new hope and we know we have helped their precious lives to expand and thrive. And there’s the gutting realization that we can’t take back what we’ve said when those eyes well up with sadness and disappointment.
We know that, in general, how we speak affects how we view ourselves and others. John R. Schaffer, Ph.D, who served as a behavioral analyst for the FBI, writes: “Words create filters through which people view the world around them.”
This being the case, it stands to reason that, as we raise our children, deliberate awareness of the language we use as we relate to them is critical. Because we aren’t only reinforcing a framework for OUR perception, but we’re the general contractors responsible for constructing the foundation to our children’s world view.
And I’ve found that these three-word shifts SPEAK VOLUMES. That three word is enough for blessing a child. They send a powerful POSITIVE and RESPONSIBLE message to our kids about ourselves, our family, and the world:
“Mine” shifts to “ours” –
I feel a strong conviction in my heart almost every time I tell my children that something is mine. And there’s a holiness that I’ve become sensitive to behind the word our. When my girls ask me if a beautiful necklace I happen to be wearing is mine, they’ll often ask if it’s also a little bit theirs. And I’m compelled to always say, “Yes. If it’s mine, it is also yours. It’s ours.” I think this sanctity I sense around embracing our or ours lies in scripture: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17 NIV)….”
The messianic usage of the word heirs according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon is “one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship.” It is the nature of the Father to share what is His with His children. As a mother, shifting to an ours mentality reinforces “sonship” which is, in essence, that sense of unconditional belonging and privilege we hope our sons and daughters feel simply because they are our children, not because of anything they’ve done or accomplished.
“I have to” shifts to “I choose to” or “I get to” –
William Shakespeare once wrote, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” I don’t “have to” do anything, even if it may seem like it sometimes. And I want my girls to firmly grasp the idea that they are creating their current and future realities, every single day.
When my firstborn was still a tiny tot and I would leave her with my mother-in-law a couple of times a week to go to work, I used to say to her even then that, “Mommy chooses to go to work today.” Because even if our family was in a dire financial situation or I had a big meeting or my career depended on it, I could still choose not to go. I refuse to ever feel trapped, so I try to reflect that paradigm for life in the words I use with my kids.
And as Michael Hyatt states in one of his recent posts, taking it one step further and saying that you “get to go to work” creates an atmosphere of gratitude in your home: “Rather than dreading or resenting an activity, you can be thankful for it. And the more gratitude we express, the better we feel and perform.”
“You” shifts to “I” –
I don’t always get this one right, especially in the heat of supremely thin patience. But, when I correct the girls for something kind of arbitrary, like being too noisy or jumping on the sofa, I try to emphasize the role of my preferences in the matter as opposed to their wrongdoing. For instance, instead of saying “I’m cross because you were being too noisy” I say “I’m cross because I find it difficult to concentrate and be calm with so much noise.”
Because isn’t that really the case? There is no absolute natural law that I know of dictating how quiet or noisy children should be. There are just people with different preferences and levels of sensitivity. And there is no need to place punishing blame on our kids for violating our preferences. This doesn’t mean they get to do whatever they want. Those words for blessing a child is effective when you use it from the core of your heart.
It just means you help them to understand that doing what you ask is an opportunity to demonstrate respect for another human being, not an issue of their goodness or badness.
So what do you think? Will you apply these language shifts to your life? Go ahead and leave me a comment. Thank you, and lots of motherly love to you!