My older daughter came home from school the other day and said something about being in the “stupid” math class.
“What?” I asked. “Why do you call it that?”
“Because it’s not the smart math class. Everyone calls it that.”
My daughter is in 7th grade and is taking pre-algebra. Definitely not “stupid math.” The other math class for 7th grade is algebra.
A lot of the kids in her grade call algebra “smart math” and pre-algebra “stupid math.”
When my daughter said she was in “stupid math,” I immediately put a stop to it. I told her we weren’t going to call it that in our house. She thought I was weird. She thought I was overreacting. I mean, everyone calls it that.
But here’s the things. Words matter. They matter when we say them to others, and they matter when we say them to ourselves. Now, my daughter wasn’t calling it “stupid math” because she thinks she’s stupid but because that’s what everyone else calls it. However, if you say something often enough, you will start to believe it.
Proverbs 18:21 tells us “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” That means that what we say has the power to help or the power to harm. The words we say to ourselves have the potential to offer ourselves life or death. In the same way that we can cut down others with our tongues, we have the power to cut down ourselves.
We don’t want to use our words to create a sense of false pride, but we do want to use our words not to insult the masterpiece that God created when He created us. Every time my daughter calls her math class “stupid,” she reinforces the idea in her own brain that she’s not capable of doing math. She’s not a math genius (and, truly, how many of us are?), but she’s plenty smart enough to excel in her math class.
If we are to follow God’s instruction to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we have to watch the words we say to ourselves. We need to be careful how we use our words within our own brains. We have to watch how our kids speak about themselves. Because if we talk poorly about ourselves long enough, even in jest, we will begin to believe those words. We will be speaking death into our own lives instead of life.
Be vigilant about the way your kids talk about themselves. Remind them that they God considers them a masterpiece and every unkind word we speak about ourselves is like a dart thrown at a priceless work of art. We wouldn’t use the Mona Lisa as a dart board, so we shouldn’t use ourselves as one either.
To teach our kids to use the words they direct at themselves wisely, we have to be conscious of the words we’re using about ourselves, too. Our kids will learn to turn their words against themselves if that’s what they see us doing. Every word that comes out of our mouths is a potential lesson for our children, whether those words are directed at others or at ourselves.
Words can be the sharpest tool we have in our toolbox. They can cut to the quick and tear someone down, including ourselves. Work to make your house a place where you not only teach your kids to speak words of life to others but a place where they learn to speak words of life to themselves as well.