My older daughter had a rough day on Saturday. It was so bad that she dubbed it “National Pick on Me Day.” Two incidents in that day reminded me of the power that our words have over our kids.
As she was practicing her trumpet for a playing test she has today, she was struggling to hit the right notes. We had been joking around while she was practicing. Unbeknownst to me, she had been struggling to hit those notes for a while and was actually pretty concerned about this playing test. She played a scale and missed several notes. She announced that that wasn’t a song, it was a scale. Without thinking, I quickly replied in the same joking vein we’d had all morning. “Well, it doesn’t sound like either,” I said.
I don’t know why I said that. It was the first thing that popped into my head. I didn’t mean it. I was teasing her. But that was the final straw for my daughter. She ran to her room crying. I spent the next half hour trying to undo the damage my thoughtless, joking words had caused. And no matter what I said or did, I couldn’t take those words back. I couldn’t undo the wound I had inflicted.
That night, my daughter played a soccer game in the tournament she was in this weekend. It was a tough, physical game. And a parent from the opposing team started yelling insults at my daughter. Among other things, he called her a cheat and said she was a product of bad parenting. My daughter was practically in tears on the field, and she was in tears when she came off.
Now, my daughter plays competitive soccer at a pretty high level. The parents can often be more intense about the game than the kids are. But there is never a place for calling a 12-year-old names, no matter how high a level they play at.
As adults, as parents, we have a responsibility to think before we speak. Our words can cut our kids to the quick. Carelessly spoken words to our kids or yelled at a child on the field have the power to cause damage that we may never be able to completely repair. Even words spoken in jest have the power to wound.
Our kids need us to show them how to build others up with our words. They need us to show them how to use words well. They need us to be examples of how to be graceful with our words even in the toughest of situations.
Because our kids can’t learn the truth of Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” unless we model it for them, unless we weigh our words carefully before we open our mouths.
So, today, I’ll be taking a closer look at what I have to say to my kids. I’ll be taking that extra second to filter my words before I open my mouth. I’ll be seeking to build my kids up, not tear them down. Won’t you join me?