The Bible has many encouragements to watch what we say – Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit. There will be fruit, consequences, from the words we say – and those consequences will bring either life or death.
I’m sure you know what words of ‘death’ look like: nagging, name calling, belittling, angry, mean, critical, unkind, words based on mistrust. Words spoke with this heart or attitude bring death because when they come out of our mouth the spirit of our listener is crushed.
As opposed to the times when we speak words of life; words of life lift up, encourage and strengthen the listener. Words of life are words spoken with: kindness, faith, hope, love, patience, trust and belief.
Not only does our tone need to be described this way, but our very message is one of life – our words also need to instil hope, courage, trust, etc into our listener; words like this truly can bring and sustain life to our family.
As a mum we speak to our kids a lot through the day. There are five different situations that typify our verbal interactions with our kids: Conversations, Instruction, Correction, Praise and Conflict. How can we speak life at these five times?
1-Times of Conversations
Conversations are when we are simply sharing life, getting to know each other, sharing the comings and goings of our day. To speak life we need to:
- See our children as people. This seems so obvious but I think sometimes we see children as a sub-group, but they have feelings, hopes, desires and needs just as much as our spouse, neighbour or friend. We need to give them due courtesy, respect and consideration.
- We need to know our children as individuals: their love language, their quirks, their passions, their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses.
- Be interested in our children’s world. They may have fascinations that seem ridiculous (our son Josh was so narrowly focused on Thomas the Tank Engine which meant we also knew every engines’ name and personality!)
2-Times of Instructions
We need to understand that instructions are given, not to get a job done, but to help our child do what they need to do. A slight difference in focus here – if our children do not feel enabled to do the task after we have given instructions, we have not done our job well. We certainly haven’t spoken life. Instructions need to be:
- When we have the child’s attention
- When they are spoken quietly and with an encouraging tone
- When we help the child understand not only what to do but why this is important (moral reason or safety reason)
- When we focus on the to do instead of the do not do. For example: hold your cup with two hands, instead of don’t spill the milk.
3-Times of Correction
We can have the mistaken understanding that if we are to speak life, we don’t correct our kids. This is not the case – if we are to teach and train our kids, we will need to speak words of correction – that is words that help our kids get onto the right track. We need to check our own heart before we speak to our kids – are we frustrated, annoyed, tired, fed-up? We will not speak words of life when we are like that. We need to find words that help our child, not alleviate our own inner turmoil. Words of correction need to be:
- Calm and gentle (get rid of anger first)
- Focused on the heart – helping your children want to do things differently
- Followed by forgiveness. Our children need to be assured of our forgiveness. We need to be quick to forgive and not hold grudges against our kids.
4-Times of Praise
How praise balms the soul!
- We need to catch our children doing something good (set them up to succeed if you have to!)
- We need to praise them for their choices, not their actions (character based choices).
- We need to be sincere – don’t just say chirpy things to make them feel good about themselves – they’ll see through it eventually! Give sincere honest praise for the things they do well.
- Be affirming even in the face of failure. If we are so caught up in praise, then the absence of praise can seem like condemnation. We need to be sure we give encouragement and love/acceptance when they fail.
5-Times of Conflict
This often looks the same as times of correction, but not necessarily, and especially with older kids – early teens onwards. So some key to speaking life when our children disagree with us:
- Keep calm, not angry, don’t take it personally
- Create a space (emotional space) for them to share their feelings, their understandings, their experiences. Even if you disagree, don’t dismiss or ignore these, accept them as real for your child.
- Stay focused on the importance of your relationship – nothing is worth destroying that
- Use reflective listening (repeating what they say to confirm you are hearing correctly) and then allow for further clarification
- Don’t react when angry, walk away and promise to come back to discuss it at another time. Always guard your tongue and tone.
Speak words of Life
The words we speak throughout the day will influence our children (there will be fruit) – so we need to choose our words wisely. We can speak life or death, build up or tear down, we will create strife or peace, inspire or destroy. Which will it be? This isn’t a choice we make today, sitting here reading this blog, it is a choice we need to make every time we are about to open our mouth!
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