Words Are Important
Along with important stories from the news that highlight ethics, and information aimed to help you discuss difficult subjects, we at InspireConversation look to help you better yourselves. For the consideration of children and teens, as well as their parents, we offer some food for thought about the importance of words. Choose what you say wisely, and it will help you in every area of your lives.
Words help us to express ideas and convey our feelings to others. The invention of language was a key development in mankind’s emergence from its primitive beginnings, and a cornerstone of modern society. We should all respect the power language has to offer.
In our busy lives we often find ourselves quickly blurting something out, not taking the time to choose our words wisely. This can result in ideas being miscommunicated, and can leave a lasting impact.
Sometimes we can safeguard against the misuse of a word by simply properly indicating our subject when speaking. For example, a child who is told that they are bad because of something they did, may develop feelings of shame and a negative outlook. Something a child does may be bad, and should be indicated as such. This is how we teach children and teens about better behavior. A child who tells a fib to get out of trouble is not a bad child, but they did a bad thing.
We must also be careful not to overuse adjectives that paint everything as black and white. When we react quickly to a situation, we tend to reach for words that fall to either extreme. A great event may be described as “perfect” and a less ideal one may be “terrible.” In fact, things are rarely all good or all bad. Using words like “always,” “never,” “best,” and “worst” can convey the wrong message, especially to younger children. Life much more often occupies a middle ground between between extremes, and our words should reflect that in order to best prepare our children for life.
At other times we must take the time to find the right word to express what we mean. When we declare that something is “annoying” we attach a decidedly negative connotation to it. What we really might want to say is that it is “distracting” because it is getting in the way of our accomplishing something, or that it is more “noticeable” than someone else might think. When we take the time to avoid negativity and express what we really mean, we avoid potentially harmful results.
Here are a few quick guidelines to serve as a checklist for helping to make better use of language with and around children:
- Take the time to pause and think before you speak, rather than jumping into the first thought to run through your head.
- Try to avoid extreme words unless a situation is truly extreme. Match your vocabulary to the reality of a given instance.
- Take the time to direct words at the proper subject. Avoid creating a blanket “us vs. them” mentality, or generalizing people or situations when referring to what is really a specific person or occurrence.
- Use more positive and uplifting words than negative ones. Offer constructive advice instead of criticism whenever possible.
- Use words that reflect the values you want to instill in your children and teens.
- Encourage your children and teens to follow suit, and offer advice when they speak in terms that you think could be better chosen.
Also remember that these choices are not only important when speaking directly to your children or teens, but whenever you speak around them. Even if your words are not addressed directly to your child, an abundance of negative words can instill a negative attitude. If you are going to make a habit of using more precise and sensitive language, it should be consistent throughout your life, with your children, whenever they are around and even when they are not. Luckily, being more exact about the way we speak can positively impact all areas of our lives, so the change will be a welcome one.
Language is a gift that we have all been given. It has incredible power, and like any power, we must make sure to respect it and use it wisely. The things we say carry weight. As we look to set good precedents for our family, start with the things you say. Choose your words carefully, and make sure to say what you really mean. Taking a little extra time can result in a happier home, and better communication between all members of your family.