Don’t Wait

Don't wait

I believe in the power of words. Words can help and heal or they can hurt and harass. It’s up to us which one they do.

On Sunday, the lesson in the middle school service was about the power of words to help and encourage other people. It’s an important lesson for all of us.

Too often, we’re quick to use our words to criticize or complain instead of using them to encourage. We’re quick to judge and belittle instead of love and help.

Too often, we wait until a person is dead before we tell them what we really think. Think about it, how many times have you been to a funeral where people stand up and talk about how wonderful a person the deceased was? Do you ever wonder if they told them that to their face?

Not too long ago, I got a card from someone I’ve never met, telling me how much they enjoyed this blog. Every now and then I get an encouraging email or comment. And it keeps me going. It keeps me blogging. Because I know that what I’m doing matters.

Everyone needs that kind of encouragement. Everyone needs to know that they matter. Everyone needs to know that someone else noticed them.

God knows the power of encouragement. Remember Joshua? He had the task of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. He also had some pretty big shoes to fill. Moses wasn’t exactly your ordinary guy. So when God told Moses to teach Joshua how to lead the Israelites, He said this: “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see” (Deuteronomy 3:28).

Everyone we come into contact with needs encouragement, from our kids to our spouses to the clerk at the store who screwed up your grocery bill.

And we need to teach our kids to encourage others. We need to teach them to use their words to help others feel loved. They need to learn to use their words to build others up and not tear them down.

And we all need to learn to do it now. We need to learn to not wait to tell someone what they mean to us. If someone is making an impact in your life or your kids’ lives, tell them. Let them know they make a difference. It may just keep them doing what they’re doing a little bit longer.

It may seem awkward at first, and your kids will most likely think it’s corny to write a note to someone who is a big influence in their lives. But the truth is that God designed words to be used for His glory. He designed words to be used for encouragement. He designed words to be used to change people’s lives.

He doesn’t want us to wait for someone’s funeral to say how important that person was to us. Make it a point to tell someone today that they make a difference. Encourage your kids to do the same.

Dealing with Mean Words

This video came across my Facebook feed yesterday:

For those of you who aren’t science fiction nerds, Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation in the ’90s. He gave this answer at a Comicon gathering, which is a large convention for lovers of all things SciFi.

The answer he gave to this little girl’s question about how to deal with people making fun of you is spot on. All of our kids will deal with this at some point in their lives. Someone else is going to try to make our kids feel bad about themselves. At some point, our kids will be called names or be put down by someone else. The important thing for our kids to know is exactly what Wil Wheaton said: When someone else makes fun of you, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

When someone else is picking on our kid, it’s really hard to teach compassion and love because what we want to do most is go knock some sense into the other kid. But what our kids need to know more than anything is that most of the time, people lash out at others because they feel bad about themselves. They make fun of someone else because they feel inadequate in some way. They call someone else names because there’s something going wrong in their own lives.

When another child calls our kid names or puts him down, we need to teach our kids that what others say doesn’t matter. What God says trumps what another child can say every time, and God says our kids are masterpieces. God says they are made in His image. God says they are fearfully and wonderfully made. What other people say can’t change that truth.

No matter the truth, though, words can sting. Words can wound a child’s heart. Words can often do more damage than a physical injury. That’s why it’s so important that we teach our kids from an early age that mean words thrown at them by someone else don’t have anything to do with them. We have to teach them that ugly words often come from a bruised and battered heart. We need to teach them to love that person and have compassion for them.

We should never let our kids be continually bullied, but we should teach our kids to pray for those who hurt them. We should teach our kids that no matter what anyone else says, those words can never trump the truth of God’s words. We should teach them that love and compassion win out in the end. Because that’s what God teaches us.

The Words We Say to Ourselves Matter

masterpiece

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.

Your Words Have Power

parent words

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?

Are You Oversharing?

social media

My younger daughter wanted to tell me something yesterday. She started her sentence with “Don’t put this on your blog or anything…”

I had to smile. Because I blog, my mind often runs on two tracks — a mom track and a blog track. When my kids do or say something, my blogger brain will often jump up and think, “This would make a great blog post.” However, the older my girls get, the more careful I need to be about what I post in this space.

You see, my girls didn’t ask to be the daughters of a blogger. They didn’t ask to have their every moment and every emotion aired to the Internet public. They just ended up with a mom with a blog. Whenever my daughters ask me not to put something on the blog, I don’t. If I’m going to share something really personal, I ask them before I post it. I try to keep things fairly general in this space, and I don’t use my girls’ names — all in an effort to respect their privacy.

As I smiled at my daughter’s words yesterday, knowing that very few of her friends ever have to utter those words, I was reminded that those guidelines for respecting my kids’ privacy need to apply outside my blog, too. They need to apply to my Facebook page, my Twitter account, my Pinterest board, and even to my conversation.

We live in a world of oversharing. Social media has made it possible for us to share every thought, every meal, every moment of our lives with the rest of the world. We talk and talk to our kids about the importance of being circumspect in what they share on the Internet. We frame it in terms of safety and in terms of not posting things they don’t want following them around for the rest of their lives. Yet, too often, we, as their parents, break those very rules.

We post our kids’ embarrassing moments. We post their whereabouts. We post our frustrations with them. Don’t get me wrong. Sharing a cute story or a proud moment is fine. Sharing a mortifying moment is not.

Too often, I read a Facebook post about a child, and I wonder if the child knows that mom or dad posted that embarrassing moment. I wonder how that child will feel about his friends’ parents reading what to him is a mortifying moment and perhaps sharing that with his friend. I wonder if the parent really thought about how it would make her child feel if he read it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to apply Ephesians 4:29 to our social media words as well as to the words that come out of our mouths: “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.” I’m not saying that sharing about your kids on social media sites is wrong, but I think the standard needs to be whether it would build our kids up and benefit them if they or their friends read it.

When we overshare about our kids on social media, when we immortalize their embarrassing moments, their struggles, and our own frustrations with them on the Internet, we create the possibility of driving a wedge between us and our kids. We let social media become a tool of destruction in our own homes.

My suggestions is that we follow this simple rule: Only post things on social media about your kids that you would say in front of your kids and their friends. If it would embarrass or hurt your child to say it in front of her and her friends, keep it off social media. If you’re looking for advice on a particularly tough or sensitive subject, ask a friend in person. Don’t immortalize it on Facebook.

In this completely connected society, we need to take a good look at how we’re using social media and how it’s affecting our kids. We need to use it as a tool to build our kids up, not as one to tear them down. We need to guard the words that flow out of our fingertips just as much as we need to guard the ones that come out of our mouths.

 

Silence in the Backseat

positive words

We pulled out of the orthodontist’s parking lot, and it started — again. From the backseat came the sounds of two sisters who were doing their best to convince me that they hated each other. Nitpicking and sniping over the littlest things.

So, I did it. I pulled the car over. Despite many threats, I’ve never actually stopped the car before. I turned around in my seat, looked at my girls and said, “Stop it! You’ve been sniping at each other all day. Next person who picks on the other one is going to bed at 7 tonight. Just try me and see what happens.”

Silence reigned in the backseat all the way home. I think I scared them. Maybe they thought if I pulled the car over again they would be walking home. And no one wanted to go to bed at 7 p.m.

As I drove home, I stewed. My girls are a little less than two years apart. We go through phases where they’re best friends and phases where they can’t breathe without annoying the other one. We happen to be in the annoying breathing stage right now.

We put a lot of time and effort into creating family bonds. We try to eat together as a family as often as possible. We encourage our girls to play together. We have a rule that unless you have another legitimate commitment, you have to be at your sister’s games to cheer her on. We try to teach our girls that when no one else in the world is standing with you, your family has your back.

Yet, yesterday, my girls were the ones tearing each other down. So, as I drove, I stewed and prayed. I pulled in the garage and told everyone to sit still. Once again, I turned around. I looked at my girls and said, “Believe it or not, your sister was not put here on this earth to annoy you.”

Stunned silence ensued. It was as if this thought had never occurred to them.

I looked at my younger daughter and said, “I know big sisters can be annoying sometimes because they think they know everything.” Gasps of indignation rose from the other side of the seat.

Looking at my older daughter, I announced, “And younger sisters can be annoying, too, because they’re always tagging along.”

Then I continued, “But your sister is the only person in this world who is always going to be there. She’s the one who is going to have your back when things get tough. Before we get out of this car, I want to hear five things from each of you that you like about your sister.”

Silence again. After a few false starts, they got going on their lists of things they liked about their sister. By the time we got to item No. 5, they were getting into the spirit of the thing. They were smiling and enjoying the other person’s list. By the time I finally let them out of the car, they had decided to do their chores then play basketball — together. I didn’t hear another criticism or frustrated tone of voice all evening.

It’s important that we remind our kids why they like their siblings. When you live with someone 24/7 from birth, it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons why you love them — especially when they’re annoying you. The power of positive words is hard to ignore. You can’t compliment someone and stay mad at them. You can’t hold anger in your heart while you’re building someone else up. That’s why God told us in 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.”

Teaching our kids to build each other up even when they want to tear each other down teaches them to value their siblings and friends. It teaches them to appreciate one another. It teaches them how to watch each others’ backs.

Never underestimate the power of a positive word to mend relationships and change attitudes in your home.

3 Ways to Teach Your Kids That Their Words Matter

I’m taking a blogging day off today. Enjoy this post from the archives about the importance of choosing our words wisely.

I was taking the girls to their various practices last night, when my younger daughter found her take-home sheet from church in the car. She picked it up and read, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

“That’s a lie,” said my older daughter. “Sometimes words can hurt more than breaking your arm.”

“It should say, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can do more damage,’” my younger daughter said.

My 8- and 10-year-old girls have learned the harsh truth about carelessly uttered words. They hurt, and they leave scars where no one can see them.

After we had dropped my younger daughter off at the grandparents (because some nights it takes an extra driver to get everyone where they need to go) my older daughter continued the topic by filling me in on all the girl drama taking place at school. It made me sad to know that at 10 and 11 years old, these girls had figured out how to use their words as a weapon.

If there’s one thing we can teach our kids that will make a difference in this world, it’s that words matter. The Bible compares our tongue to a spark that can start a raging fire (James 3:5). Carelessly spoken words have the ability to pierce more sharply than a sword, and the effects last longer.

Yet, kind words can be just as powerful. A kind word spoken in the midst of difficulty can change a person’s outlook. Proverbs 25:11 says “The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.” What a great picture of what our words can look like.

Help your kids understand the power of their words to wound and to heal.

1. Get a piece of paper and a metal bowl. Take a match, light it and ask your kids if they think the flame is big. Light the paper on fire and drop it in the bowl. Watch as the flame flares up. Explain to your kids that our words are like the match. A small, unkind word can cause someone else to feel really bad, leaving them feeling like the ashes in the bowl.

2. Give your kids each five $1 bills. Ask how they would spend each of their dollars. Ask if they would make careful choices with their money because they don’t want to waste it. Explain that our words are like money; they are valuable. We need to choose wisely how we spend them. When we let words carelessly drop from our lips, we run the risk of hurting someone else. We need to think about our words as much as we would think about how we are going to spend our money.

3. Buy a couple of fake apples and a pretty silver bowl. Have your kids help you either spray paint the apples gold or cover them in gold glitter. Place the apples in the bowl, write Proverbs 25:11 on a notecard and attach it to the bowl. Place the bowl in a prominent place in your house where everyone can see it as a reminder that our words should be as beautiful as golden apples in a silver bowl.

Nothing we can do can take back an unkind word. Once it is out of our mouths, we can only try to heal the damage it has caused. Our words matter, and we can choose to make our words helpful and kind or we can choose to use them to wound others. Imagine the difference it would make if we all chose the kind and helpful option.

Just Stop

I watched a lot of hockey this past weekend at my daughter’s tournament. In one game, the other team had little stop signs on the backs of their jerseys, just above where their name should go. That stop sign is there for a reason. It’s a visual reminder to the other kids on the ice that checking (hitting the other player with a hip or shoulder) isn’t allowed at this age.

As I watched the kids skate, it occurred to me that there are days when I need a stop sign, a visual reminder to stop before I do something rash. Wouldn’t it be great if someone held up a stop sign before we opened our mouths and said something hurtful or before we lost our patience?

That stop sign on the backs of those jerseys gives the kids just a split second reminder to stop before they end up in the penalty box, or worse, end up hurting someone else. Our words and our actions have the same potential to cause harm as a body check does in 9-year-old hockey.

Just last night, my girls were sniping at each other about something trivial. Both said things they didn’t mean and both ended up with hurt feelings before they went to bed. If they had simply taken a moment before opening their mouths, they might have found a better way to address the issue without creating hurt feelings.

God tells us we should consider the feelings of others before we open our mouths. He tells us we should build one another up, not tear each other down. Our words and our actions are weapons that can slice through another’s soul as surely as a hot knife slices through butter. In Psalm 64:3, David is talking about his enemies when he says: “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.” Too often our words and actions resemble those of David’s enemies. We want our words and actions to build others up — not tear them down.

Today, I’ll be posting a stop sign in my kitchen with this simple acrostic:

S — Stop for a minute

T — Think about your words or actions

O — Opt not to hurt someone else

P — Pray about the right thing to do or say

That stop sign (you can get your printable here) will be a visual reminder to me and my family that we need to stop and think before we body check someone else with our words or our actions. I’m also making smaller stop signs for my girls to stick in their pockets as an everyday reminder to stop and think before they cause hurts that they can’t repair.

We don’t want our words and actions to cause harm. We want them to be the equivalent of a goal, not a body check. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple visual reminder to stop, then speak or act, for that to happen.

Fixing a Mistake

Courtesy digitalart

I did something in this space yesterday that I try really hard to teach my girls not to do. I did it unintentionally, but I wanted to use today to correct it.

Yesterday’s post was about “the popular girls.” I had a reader gently point out to me that just because a girl is popular, it doesn’t make her mean or drama-filled, which is absolutely true, and I in no way meant to imply otherwise. I used the term “popular” because that’s how my daughter referred to them.

In hindsight, I should have created a much more specific description of the group of girls my daughter was talking about, which I have since added to the post. Instead, I tarred and feathered and entire group of people with a broad brush, and for that, I’m sorry.

If you have a daughter who is outgoing, fun, and popular, then you should absolutely be proud of her and her ease with making friends. You should enjoy the amazing woman that God made her to be.

I try really hard to teach my girls not to label people. God doesn’t put labels on us, so we shouldn’t put them on each other. My point yesterday was that we are all masterpieces and our kids need to know that, but then I completely contradicted that by labeling a group of kids.

I did respond to the comment the reader left on that post, but I wanted to correct my mistake in this space, since this is the place that I made it. I promise to do a much better job of choosing my words wisely in the future.

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Last week in this space, we had a drawing for the book You Have Been Invited! by Brian Howell. The winner of that book is Angie Baker Grice. Congratulations, Angie! Send me your contact info, and I’ll send your book. Let me know how you like it.

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I hope you all have a fantastic weekend. Join me here next week as I’ve got some great stories about our evening spent shoe shopping and some conversations we’ve been having about angels around here.

Navigating the Political Melee

Courtesy nirots

My younger daughter ran for student council representative for her class last week. She ended her speech with the words, “I’m C______ Fairchild, and I approved this message.” Clearly, someone has seen and heard too many political advertisements. Doesn’t it seem like we’ve all seen and heard too many of those? And it’s only September.

As the general election nears, it’s easy to get caught up in the political rhetoric being slung around. But be careful. Your kids are watching you.

No matter what you think about the current, former or future occupants of the White House, demeaning the office of the president is dangerous. Getting caught up in the polarization and political mud-slinging hurts not just our country but our kids. Raising kids who are unable to have a rational discourse about the direction of our country may well be one of the most harmful things we’ve done for our country.

It seems as if we’ve forgotten that God’s admonitions about words apply to political discourse as well. We think it’s OK to demean the members of the other party. We think it’s OK to say disrespectful things about the president. We think it’s acceptable to sling words of hate when it comes to politics.

But it’s not. And when we do it, we teach our kids that we don’t respect the office of president, and neither should they. That’s not what God wants. No matter how much we disagree with someone else’s views, God doesn’t ever condone disrespect and hate.

Romans 13:1 says “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” And that’s followed by Romans 13:7, which says “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

We don’t have to like everything our government does. We don’t even have to like the people who are part of our government, but we do have to acknowledge their authority and offer them the respect due the office in which they sit. Just because we’re talking about politics, it doesn’t exempt us from the words 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.”

Most of the political conversation that I hear these days won’t stand up to the standards of Romans 13 and Ephesians 4:29. And that tells our kids two things: 1. that it’s OK to have no respect for the office of president and 2. that God’s commands don’t apply to politics. Neither of those are true, and neither are things I want my kids to learn.

So, my plea to you this political season is think before you speak. Keep in mind that even if you don’t like the candidate, the office deserves your respect. Remember the standards of Ephesians 4:29 apply to political discussions as well. If we can do that, we just might tone down some of the hateful rhetoric and teach our kids how to have a reasonable debate about the issues facing our country.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.