Today I read a little blurb about common phrases to avoid saying. It was before I had even gotten out of bed or come downstairs to start the day. A friend shared it on Facebook and her title said something like “Teachers, please don’t say these things to my kids or ANYONE’S kids” and I thought, Huh. I bet I’ve said all of those. This morning. And so I read it. Fortunately, I had NOT said those things yet this morning…but they were almost all things I WOULD say at some point in the day. I would say them and I would KNOW the moment the words were out of my mouth that I should not have said them.
Interestingly, if anyone said these things to me, they would get the exact opposite reaction of what they were trying to accomplish. Why am I surprised that they’ve never worked for me? A few of them I silently congratulated myself and patted my own back…I didn’t say THAT to my kids or I realized the folly in that a few years ago and quit saying that – go me! But then I quickly realized that was just my over-inflated ego, Pride, whispering in my head and quickly shut that down. Who was I kidding – myself?? I may not say ALL of these things but there are quite a few more I should add to the list!
I mention this list because I find myself wanting to say most of them to my pre-teen. Who – aside from the fact that he’s not actually thirTEEN – is a teenager. (And if he isn’t I’d love to compare notes because if this isn’t teenager-dom then I am DOOMED when it comes.)
I’ll just review a couple of the ones that I particularly wanted to use today…and see if you agree that while my intention is to get a positive reaction, I am in reality chipping away at his self-esteem and forcing confrontations when instead I could be coming alongSIDE him and HELPING him. (Don’t read “do his work FOR him”…read “help him figure out what he can do to get there.”)
- “You have potential but you don’t use it.”
- “I’m disappointed in you.”
- “I’m busy now.”
Now don’t get me wrong. There are a LOT MORE things that I could (and probably should) write here that I say and I shouldn’t. (For starters, how about “Why are we having this conversation AGAIN?!” or “Do you even listen to me? Ever?“) The author of this little article mentioned these three though, and so I’ll stick with those.
You have potential but you don’t use it. If someone told me this I’d punch them in the face. Well…maybe not, I’d like to think the Holy Spirit has been able to work enough in my heart that I’d NOT punch them in the face but…I’d sure want to. No promises though. Of course, what I want to communicate to my kid is that he can do SO MUCH MORE and I see SO MUCH potential in him. And I am communicating my frustration with what I view as wastefulness…but man alive. This sure isn’t going to encourage him to try harder. In fact, when I have said this to my son, I’ve instead watched as he melts inside. Like, turns inside out and melts right down like a puddle of butter. And then I watch in horror as I see what my callous words have done and quickly work EXTRA hard to build him back up. (And I don’t know about you, but when dealing with melted butter it takes a LONG time to get it to firm back up – and it’s never EVER quite the same. I pray often that God will somehow help my kids to forget the loose and unkind words I’ve said over the years – that they would not swirl around in their heads as they grow older.) I spend a good portion of my time apologizing to my kids for the things I have said and done – asking them to please forgive me and praying that they don’t carry it with them.
I’m disappointed in you. If I heard this from someone I loved and trusted I’d probably cry. Maybe initially yell at them or something … but eventually cry. Most likely because the truth is – they probably aren’t as disappointed in me as I AM DISAPPOINTED IN ME. When I point out to my kids that I’m disappointed in them they don’t jump up and say, “Oh man mom! Sorry you’re disappointed in us! Let’s try that again so you can be SUPER HAPPY with us!” You want to know what? That’s not the truth – I’m NOT disappointed in them. I’m often disappointed with the CHOICES they made. Or with something they SAID. Maybe even DID. But THEM? No. I’m not disappointed IN THEM. It carries the feeling that they have to work for my love – somehow my love and approval are tied in with WHO they are. No, WHO they are I could not be more satisfied with or possibly love more. I don’t agree with all of their choices – some of them I REALLY don’t agree with and sure, I’m disappointed that they made those decisions – but they are all opportunities for me to show them unconditional love WHILE I teach/disciple them.
I’m busy now. Enough said, right? I have to stop saying this. In the article the author mentions saying instead, “I’m very busy right now, but you are very important to me. Unless this is an emergency, let’s find a better time to talk. I really want to hear what’s on your mind.” It’ll take me five seconds longer to say something that will not crush their little soul in one second. Worth it.
Today gave me many, MANY opportunities to reflect on this article. All of it caused me to think long and hard on my words – and what it is that I actually want to accomplish with what I say. Words are SO INCREDIBLY powerful. When I was a kid I memorized LOTS of verses about the tongue because I had a SERIOUS problem with it. (My mom recognized early on that I would need these verses in my heart!) Thank GOD for His help in dealing with this very small but very powerful organ in my body!!
James 3:8 – But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Proverbs 21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
James 3:5 – So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
Luke 6:45 – …”for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
James 3:10 – From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers (SISTERS), these things ought not to be so.
Proverbs 10:19 – When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.