Moms, we have a powerful weapon at our disposal: our words. We all know the painful things that were said to us as children, some even by our parents. We all know that words can leave a permanent, painful reminder of how we have failed or how hard life is.
I’m not perfect, but I want to think long term about how my words effect my children.
This is a list of eight things I try not to say to my kids and the more truthful things I say instead.
1. “I’m always going to be there for you.”
This isn’t true. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to forget to pick them up from soccer practice. I’m going to misunderstand them. I’m going to shoot first and ask questions later sometimes. And, even though this is morbid, I can’t control exactly how long I’ll live. I’d rather say, I’m going to give you my best.
2. “You can do anything.”
Also, not true. My daughter will probably never play for the NFL. My son might not get to fly into outer space. And the chances of me having a future president in my home right now are pretty slim. Instead I say this, God has given you some amazing gifts and he’s got some great plans for you. Let’s trust him for your future.
3. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Sounds like an innocent question, but I think it can subtlely send a message to kids (especially sensitive over-thinkers like me) that your job is your identity. Instead, I ask, How can I help you be more like Jesus?
4. “You are going to college.”
Realistically speaking, college isn’t for everyone. I’d rather work with my child to figure out what the best path, not just the assumed path, for him after high school. This decision will be based on his specific strengths and passions and not the once valuable prestige of a college education. And I’m not so sure I’m willing to fork over $30K a year for my daughter to be a professional puppeteer. Instead, I say, God has a perfect plan for you.
5. “You owe me.”
Boy, I hate it when moms, especially moms of adults, remind their children of their difficult pregnancies, days of labor, C-sections, dirty diapers, etc. This totally communicates to the child that the hard work wasn’t worth it and that mom is expecting some sort of payback. No, we love unconditionally. We as mothers, should have low expectations of our children, even as adults! Then, when do bless us and care for us, and eventually return the favor of the whole diaper-changing thing, then we can truly be grateful.
6. “I am ashamed of you.”
Honestly, I have felt this way about my children’s behavior. But I try not to communicate shame. I try, and at some moments it’s easier than others, to instead use my words to express forgiveness and reconcilation. This doesn’t mean they don’t get punished for their sins. This just means that my acceptance of them as a person isn’t threatened. Instead, I say, We all make mistakes. I forgive you.
7. “You are so pretty.”
This is a hard one to reign in. I have three beautiful daughters and I want them to be confident with their looks, but I don’t want them to be so caught up with their appearance that they neglect their character. Instead I say, What makes you beautiful is that your inside matches your outside.
8. Anything negative about Daddy.
Daddy and I don’t always agree. Sometimes we can work out our differences out of earshot from the kids, sometimes we can’t. But I believe that if my kids detect any negative vibe from me about Daddy, then their inner security is threatened. Instead I need to vent in a private way, forgive Daddy, express unity and allow the kids to see us make-up.
Let’s take our words seriously, moms. Pray over what you can change about your words and practice saying the graceful and uplifting.
Read more in the Mom to Mom series.