Recess is supposed to be fun, a time to laugh and play with friends. Most days were like this. But on occasion, there were a few boys that taunted me. They would say my shirt was ugly or call me “Bucky” due to a pretty severe overbite.
I’d retort back in a sing-song way with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
But no matter how many times I said that phrase in my head or even out loud, their words felt like a slap to the face. Those were the days I felt sad and ugly.
The truth is – words have power and CAN hurt!
Bruises will fade and broken bones can heal. But the wounds left by hurtful words can linger for much longer – sometimes a lifetime.
Even now I am self-conscious about my appearance just because of the words those boys said on the playground all those years ago.
Our words have the power to destruct and we should try to never use them in this manner.
Why You Need to Teach This Powerful Analogy
- Words have energy which can be used to compel, instruct, bring joy or harm. In the end, we want our children to be mindful of how words impact the life of another – both positively and negatively.
- Children naturally do not understand the power of words and how they impact others. They need to be taught. Children need to tap into the experiences and feelings they’ve had in order to grasp the concept.
As an educator of twenty-five years, I always started off my year with a simple but powerful analogy to teach children how what we say impacts those around us. The lesson didn’t always prevent harsh words in my classroom, but it certainly cut them way down!
- It’s not just a one-time and done lesson. Kids need to be reminded often the power of their words.
At the beginning of each school year, I would sit down at the kitchen table with my daughter and talk about this very subject. As she grew older, I would change the talk. Even sometimes introduce a new demonstration of the power of words.
- Get ready to see a change in your child and their ability to empathize.
Throughout the year I watched my students stop to think twice before saying anything negative to each other. They were more inclined to include peers in their play, became helpful and much less selfish.
- Let’s not forget, technology is another avenue our kids need to understand the power of words and how to use it positively. This is especially important with it being the main way our children communicate today.
Most kids enter the cyber world as young as a toddler with educational games. While in elementary school you will see they have their own phones. This is an important time to use this powerful analogy because as we know many hide behind the screen of a computer to unleash hurtful words towards others without a thought.
Just because you can’t see the effects face to face doesn’t mean the damage wasn’t done.
Teaching Your Child the Power of Words –
Many of us are visual and kinesthetic (by doing) learners. Therefore, by having a visual demonstration that your child actually performs can have an impact that lasts. One which stays in the memory and comes to mind much easier than if you just talk about it. Besides most of our children think we are lecturing them when we want to talk! I know mine do and usually tune me out. (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.)
But keep in mind the impact of this lesson is one to ponder on for both you and your children.
Why do I include you, you ask?
That’s because we adults are just as guilty of not staying mindful of the power of words we speak to our spouses, children, co-workers, and others we encounter daily.
I know I’m guilty of saying things in haste that hurt my child or being snippy to the clerk checking me out at the grocery store. We’re not perfect and we make mistakes.
It’s something we have to continually keep in forefront of our minds daily.
The Analogy that Creates a Compelling Lesson
I gave my daughter a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squeeze it out onto the plate. Of course, she thought I was crazy! Mainly because she knew I was frugal and it was a waste of toothpaste. Nonetheless, she squeezed until nothing else came out.
I asked her to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
Again she looked at me as if I was crazy! But taking the knife she tried to push some of it back in. She struggled to get any of the paste in the tube. She even tried to open it up to allow for more room.
Soon she realized there was no way she was going to get any of it back in the tube and be good to use.
I explained how the tube of toothpaste represents a person. The paste represents the words that come out of her mouth. I expressed that I wanted her to remember the tube and the plate of toothpaste each day as she encounters others.
That her words have power which can lift up or tear down.
The act of trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube is like trying to fix the wounds which were caused by the spoken harsh, cruel words.
Even if she were able to get some of the toothpaste back into the tube, as she said earlier, it will never be the same as it was before she squeezed it out. This is much like the person who was the recipient of those cruel impactful words.
– they will never be the same
I told her to look at the crumpled up tube. Then asked her to smooth it out the best she could. As she was doing this, I explained that she may not see the damage outwardly on a person as she did with the tube. But on the inside, the damage was done – mentally and emotionally. No matter how many times she says she is sorry – no matter how hard she tries to smooth the tube out – it leaves permanent scars.
The Positive Power of Words and Their Value
I asked her to then use her words and act in a positive way which would build others up instead.
Be the person who sticks up for those who are on the recipient end of harsh words. I reminded her that even on the internet, like Facebook, Instagram, and other places she talks with her friends, to support each other. She can use her words in an encouraging way to make someone feel good about themselves.
We all make mistakes in our frustrated, ugly mood days and forget the power of words. So it is important to remember to not mix bad words with a bad mood.
Just like the toothpaste, once it comes out of our mouths, we will never get the opportunity to replace the words we spoke. Calvin Coolidge said it best by “I have never been hurt by what I have not said.”
She will occasionally make the wrong choice and carelessly use her words to cause harm. But at the same time, I encourage her to always be mindful.
Decide every morning to use life-giving words in which she would never regret choosing kindness.
On the other end of the spectrum, a gentle word of encouragement can lift up and give inspiration. As Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”. We as individuals should keep this mindset. We should also be proactive in teaching our children to do the same.
Watching my students on the playground handle situations positively when being called names or being the recipient of unkind words is encouraging. The lesson has had an impact on how they treat others, how they are mindful of the power of their words and include each other in their play.
I’ve also loved seeing my daughter grow into a young lady with a huge heart full of empathy and using the power of words to encourage others. It makes a teacher and mother’s heart swell!
Elizebeth is a seasoned military spouse, educator, mentor, and mom to a blended family of four children. She is dedicated to helping fellow spouses create a life they love. Elizebeth is the creator and founder of Home Anchor Following Seas where military spouses will find advice and information to help navigate the crazy military lifestyle.