Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. – Yehuda Berg
Maybe it was the trauma of losing 4 children or the exposure to broken children of all ages that I have served across two continents, or maybe it is just a sense of humanity and how I would like to be treated, whatever it is, I am acutely aware of the words we use with children and how they strengthen or weaken and scar them for life, and I am committed to changing this. Before you talk to a child, ask yourself if your words are designed to build up or tear down.
When dealing with children (and we are all someone’s child) the 5-to-1 praise principle is a great rule of thumb to adopt. For every one negative comment you make to a child, balance it with five positive and meaningful comments. For instance, you may say, “Hey sweetheart, I appreciate that you always get your homework done without being reminded. It shows how responsible you are. Your room could also benefit from that same dedication; it’s been rather messy lately. By the way, your teacher said you were very helpful today. You are a joy to be around.”
Here are some words phrases you should never say to a child. You are just no good. You never listen. You are stupid. You an embarrassment to this family. I can’t wait for you to turn 18 and leave my house. Nobody wants you. You are just like your good-for-nothing dad/mom. Can’t you ever do anything right? Why can’t you be more like….? What’s wrong with you? You need to have your head examined. I can’t stand you. You are lazy. All you ever do is cause trouble. I wish I never had kids. I’ve given up everything for you. You’ll never amount to anything. You are ugly. You will be the death of me. You are nothing but a slut. My life would be so much better without you. What makes you think you are so special?
As common place as many of these phrases are in our society, the words have never and will never lose their sting. There is absolutely nothing uplifting about those words. Every single one is designed to belittle and humiliate, and it doesn’t matter whether that was your intention or if you just caved into your frustrations. The bottom line is that those kind of words will negatively impact that child.
So, what are some phrases that every child deserves and needs to hear over and over again? It’s such a blessing to be your mom/dad. You are an incredible person. You are such a quick learner. I appreciate your effort. I knew you could do it. I have every confidence in you. You are a good person. You are kind and caring. You mean so much to me. You are on the right track. Your potential has no limits. The world needs more people like you. I love her respectful you are to people and things. You are getting better and better every day. I am so excited for your future. You have a great attitude. You did a great job. You make my heart sing. Your smile lights up the room. You are precious to me.
There is yet another reason to be mindful of the words we use. I honestly believe that you cannot tear another down and stand tall at the same time. The words we use are an expression of our innermost feelings. When our words are mean, judgmental and hateful, they merely reflect the state of our heart. If you ever find yourself belittling another (even in jest), know that you have some work to do internally before those words also destroy you.
Let’s nurture our children.
Aya Fubara Eneli is the CEO of Aya Eneli International, a best-selling author and a sought after speaker. She, her husband and their five children reside in Central Texas. Follow her on Twitter @ayaeneli, like her at facebook.com/ayaeneli or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pre-order her upcoming book, Reclaim Your Life: Guidance for Wives at the Crossroads and download a Free devotional for married couples at www.ayaeneli.com/crossroads.