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.

The Words We Say to Ourselves Matter


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?

Your Kids Are Listening


My older daughter got in the car after soccer camp yesterday and announced, “I made some new friends.” It took a minute for my brain to process those words. Those words might not seem unusual to some of you, but my older daughter is often painfully shy in large groups. She generally sits back and says little, rarely putting herself in a position where she becomes the center of attention.

I asked a few questions about her new friends and discovered that she had asked enough questions to know where they go to school and what soccer team they had played for last year. She also discovered that they were new to the team like her, and she revealed that she had been the person to initiate the conversation.

On the drive home, I savored the moment. We’ve been talking with her all summer about the fact that in order to make new friends, she has to be willing to offer up something of herself, she has to be willing to risk being the first person to talk. Yesterday’s success was a confidence booster for her and a moment of parenting success to be savored.

So many of our parenting moments are ones of frustration and failure. Some days it seems like nothing I say or do is getting through to my girls. As they get older, they’ve perfected the art of letting me know they think I’m clueless about their worlds. But yesterday proved something to me — our kids are listening when we speak, even if it seem they are not.

In all the conversations I’ve had with my older daughter about making friends, I’ve never gotten the impression that she is taking my advice seriously. I often get the standard, “Mom, I know” or a teenage eye roll. I never get “Mom, that’s a good idea” or even, “I’ll think about it.”

But even when our kids are busy rolling their eyes or seemingly ignoring us, they are listening. What we say and do is making an impression, and sometimes, we get to see the fruits of all our labors in their actions. Even when we don’t see any change, even when we find ourselves wondering why our kids don’t listen, we have to keep in mind that our words may come back to them later when God has softened their hearts and they are ready to make a change.

No matter how much it seems your kids aren’t listening, no matter how often it seems your words go in one ear and out the other, keep talking to your kids. Keep offering them Godly wisdom and advice. Keep pushing them to be the person God made them to be.

Because our kids are listening — even when they are rolling their eyes.

You Play Like You Practice

All summer long around here we’ve been talking about words. We’ve been working on tone of voice. We’ve been trying to change the tone of the conversation in our house.

I’ve tried sending the girls outside when they can’t speak nicely to one another. I’ve sent them to separate rooms. I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face about how important our words are. I’ve offered up object lesson after object lesson.I’ve prayed with them and for them.

And I’ve made just about as much progress as a snail. I feel as if I’m repeatedly banging my head against a brick wall when it comes to this topic.

So, last night I decided to take one more stab at getting my point across. We sat down to dinner with the blackboard circles on the wall filled with the words THINK before you speak.

THINK is an acrostic. It stands for questions we should ask ourselves before we open our mouths.

T stands for “Is it true?”

H stands for “Is it helpful?”

I stands for “Is it inspiring?”

N stands for “Is it necessary?”

K stands for “Is it kind?”

As I went over these questions with my girls, we talked about each one. We talked about how God wants our words to lift each other up (Ephesians 4:29).

I also spent some time talking with my younger daughter about the importance of not using words that don’t meet the THINK standard even in our play. Too often, she will say mean things, then say, “But I was only playing.”

At hockey practice, her coaches always tell the kids, “You play like you practice.” The same is true with our words. If we allow ourselves to use words that don’t meet the THINK standard when we’re not being serious, then we’ll use those same words in a real-life situation. We’re training our brains how to think.

So, if you find your kids using language that doesn’t meet the THINK standard while they are playing, remind them that play is practice for life — and when it comes to our words, we play like we practice.

We’re planning to use THINK as a catchword around here. Any time someone starts to say something that doesn’t meet the standard, we are going to remind them to THINK before they speak.

If you’re having the same struggles at your house, you can print off the THINK sign to hang on the wall of your home to remind your kids to THINK before they speak.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost time for back to school. Join us starting on Monday for a great series on having “The Best School Year Ever.” You won’t want to miss it.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Rejoicing Over Progress

Courtesy arztsamui

My younger daughter said something mean to her sister the other day — and immediately apologized for it. It was a true, contrite apology. It wasn’t prompted by me. It wasn’t given grudgingly. It was an immediate recognition that what she had done was wrong and she needed to apologize.

I was stunned. I looked around to see if it was snowing on this 100-degree July day. I wanted to jump up from the game we were playing and do a happy dance.

Many of you know we have struggled mightily with the words that come out of my younger daughter’s mouth. She simply doesn’t think before she speaks. We’ve been working for years to get her to put a filter on her mouth.

Some days, despite repeated warnings, punishments, object lessons and forced apologies, I wonder if we’ll ever teach her to control her mouth. There are days that I cringe at the hurtful words she slings at her sister. But on this day, I got to see progress. I got to see all that training and discipline pay off.

Would I have preferred that she not say the words in the first place? You bet. But was I going to skip rejoicing over this one sign of progress? Absolutely not.

You see, raising kids is a journey. We teach and we prod and we wonder if anyone is even listening to us. We correct behavior only to have our kids turn around and do the exact same thing again. So when we see progress, it’s a moment for rejoicing. It’s a moment to offer our kids heaps of praise. It’s an opportunity to see God at work in our family.

Because that’s how God treats us. He prods and He disciplines. He points us down the path He wants us to take, only to have us choose the other fork in the road. He points out our sin only to have us turn around and do the exact same thing again. Yet He is always there patiently waiting for signs of our progress, for signs that we are becoming more like His Son. And when we take steps on that road, He is there, delighted with our progress.

When or kids make progress, we should be delighted, too. Because the end goal is not to raise perfect kids. The end goal is to raise kids who are becoming more like Christ. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” When our kids do that, it’s cause for rejoicing.

Our kids need us to celebrate their progress as much as they need us to offer correction and discipline. Correction and discipline will only get us so far. Encouragement and praise need to be offered to our kids as well. Look for those little signs that show progress. Praise and encourage those small steps. Your child might not have reached the end goal yet, but taking steps in the right direction is half the battle.

After all, God’s not finished with you yet, either.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife and A Pause on the Path.

Day 11: Dealing with Words

Every summer, my girls and I spend a lot of time together. During the school year, the girls are gone most of the day. Our afternoons and evenings are often filled with activities and sports. The time we spend at home during the school year is pretty small compared with the time we spend at home together during the summer.

Inevitably, my girls have trouble adjusting to spending so much time with each other. They squabble and fight until they get it figured out. But the biggest trouble we have adjusting to our summer schedule comes in controlling our words.

And I don’t know about you, but I get tired of listening to them bicker. I cringe when I hear the words they sling at each other without a thought. This summer, we’re placing a focus on choosing our words wisely. I’ve already informed my girls that talk that tears each other down isn’t allowed in our house. If I catch them slinging hurtful words at each other, then they will have to go sit outside because those words aren’t allowed in the house. Besides the fact that we live in Kansas where summer days are hot and humid, this lets them know that hurtful words are not OK.

I’m also placing visible reminders of what our words should look like around our house. Check out today’s free printable poster for your own visible reminder. These reminders help my girls think about their words before they say them. It forces them to ask these questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it encouraging? Does it build up rather than tear down? Is it appropriate? Will it make the situation better or worse? Does it benefit those who listen?

Our words need to measure up to the standard of Ephesians 4:29, which says “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.” A visible reminder helps your kids measure their words before they say them.

When your kids’ words don’t meet the standards of Ephesians 4:29 either sit down with them and talk about which of the criteria their words didn’t meet or let them fill out a What’s Wrong with My Words sheet. While they’re sitting outside, they can identify what was wrong with their words and how they can change their behavior next time.

Don’t spend the summer listening to your kids bicker. Get a handle on those tongues and make this The Best (and most peaceful) Summer Ever.

Just getting started on planning your summer, check out the start of our The Best Summer Ever series. Have friends who want in on the fun? Don’t forget to share the series with them.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

My First Job is Mom

Courtesy digitalart

My older daughter came through the front door yesterday afternoon. She looked awful. Pale skin. Tired eyes.

She collapsed in the chair. “I don’t feel good.”

Out comes the thermometer. I was sure she was going to be burning up. She looked that bad. No fever. No runny nose. Just a vague complaint of an achy head and a scratchy throat.

We decided to get a snack and get her homework done. Then the story of her day poured forth. Too many unkind words. Not enough encouragement. Girl drama. Mean boys. A math lesson she didn’t understand. The whole day had been a struggle.

She wasn’t physically sick. She was simply heart sick.

She needed her mom. She needed love. She needed to talk it through. She needed to know someone cared.

I still had work to do yesterday when my girls got home. I’m knee-deep in freelance projects that have deadlines in the next week. The laundry sat unfolded on the bed. Dinner needed to be made. I had important things to do.

Yet, all that fell by the wayside as I sat with my daughter. We struggled over her homework together (mixed fractions, ugh!). We talked about the kids who had hurt her feelings. We talked about why people act that way. We hugged and talked. We ate and talked. We worked and talked. We went to soccer and talked. We ate dinner and talked. We watched TV and talked.

Dinner did eventually get made. The laundry got folded and the freelance work got done about 11 last night. It wasn’t the ideal schedule. 6 a.m. came awfully early this morning, but it doesn’t matter.

You see, my first job is mom. And when a child wounded by the day walks in the door, it’s time to set all the other hats aside and return to being mom.

Our kids need us. They need us to be physically, emotionally and mentally present when they are beaten down by the day. They need us to drop everything and remind them that they are loved. They need us to give them our full attention. They need us to remind them that no matter what happens outside the doors of our homes, inside those homes they are loved unconditionally. They need us to build them back up when the world tears them down.

Because that’s what God does for us. He loves us. He encourages us. He gives us His undivided attention. He dropped everything, gave up everything to send His Son for us. He builds us back up when the world says we’re worth nothing. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

We are the hands and feet of God for our kids. On days when the world beats them down, we are the tangible reminder of God’s love for our children.

Love your kids today like God loves you. Give them your full attention. Build them up to keep the world from tearing them down. Because they need you.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

When Words Wound

Yesterday, we talked about helping our kids to understand the power of words. Today, we’re looking at the other side of the coin. What do we do when someone else’s words hurt our kids?

The screen door slams. A child stands in the entryway, shoulders slumped, defeat showing in every line of her posture. Tears roll down her face.

Your mommy heart leaps. You check for blood or broken bones, but you can tell by looking at her that her injuries are internal, wounds of the heart. Someone has pulled out the sword of their tongue and sliced deeply into your child’s soul.

You gather your child in your arms as your mommy heart breaks and ask “What happened?”

What spills out of your child’s mouth is a tale of another child taking words and hurling them like darts at the most vulnerable places in your child’s psyche. Those darts have hit home and spread their poison throughout your child’s heart. It doesn’t matter if the words are true. It doesn’t matter if the words were deliberate. What matters is that the words have torn through your precious child’s heart, leaving wounds that will take a while to heal.

What’s a mom to do?

No matter how much we want to heal the hurt that the words of others have caused, we can’t undo the damage. Words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. Our children will remember the hurtful barbs of others long after they’re grown. You know they will because you can remember a poorly spoken word from your childhood — one that still has the power to tear at your soul.

So, if we can’t undo all of the damage, what can we do? We can help our children to heal. We can help them to know that responding with equally damaging words isn’t the best option. We can show our children the truth to counteract the lies. We can remind our children they are loved.

Healing the wounds starts with helping our children to understand what motivates cruel words. Most often, children lash out at other children because their own hearts are wounded. Luke 6:45 tells us “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Whatever comes out of someone’s mouth is simply a reflection of what is in his heart. If mean words come out of someone’s mouth, it simply means that in some way that person’s heart has been hurt enough for them to want to lash out at others.

When we help our kids see the motivation behind someone else’s actions, it doesn’t make the words that were spoken hurt any less, but it does help our kids gain perspective. It makes the hurtful words more about the person who spoke them than it does about the person they were spoken to. When our kids understand that hurt people often hurt others, then they can view the person who hurt them with compassion and forgiveness. It takes away some of the sting of what was said when our kids understand that they were not the reason for the words, just the target.

The second part of healing the wounds is helping your kids to come up with a plan for the next time someone hurls hurtful words their way. We want our kids to know that they don’t have to let someone else abuse them with their words, but we also don’t want them to simply hurl hurtful things back. Sit down with your child and talk about what they should do if the situation ever arises again. Talk about how they can walk away or they can come up with a good response — one that isn’t hurtful and pleases God. Come up with a standard response that allows them to hold their heads up and walk away. One of our personal favorites around here is the word “So?” as in “so what?” It’s not rude and it’s not hurtful, but it denies the person saying mean things the gratification of a reaction. It doesn’t make the words hurt any less, but it does help make your child less of a target. Kids often say things to get a reaction. When they don’t get one, they’ll move on to something else.

Help your kids distinguish the truth from the lies in what others say. Our favorite question to ask our kids is “Is what the other person said true?” If it’s not, we simply chalk it up to someone else having a bad day and wanting to take it out on another person. If it is true, we talk about how our child’s behavior may have hurt the other person. If apologies are warranted, we encourage our child to make them. Often, mean words are simply lies. When we help our kids recognize them as lies, we take some of the sting out of the words.

When your children come home wounded from someone else’s harsh words, teach them to take their broken hearts to God. Help them to pray for the person who hurt them. God will take away the anger and bind up your child’s broken heart. He can change the heart of the person who hurt them. He is the ultimate healer.

One of the most important parts of healing the wounds of thoughtless words is to make home a safe haven. Don’t tolerate mean and angry words in your home. Make speaking to one another with respect one of the ground rules of your home. Don’t allow siblings to be harsh with one another and speak gently yourself. Getting through a rough day with a wounded heart is a whole lot easier if you know you won’t be subjected to the same thing at home. Make home a place where your children know they are loved. Make it a place where they can bring their broken, wounded souls to be healed.

Nothing that we say or do can take away the initial sting of hurtful words. Once they are out of someone’s mouth, the damage is done. But we can let our kids know they are loved. We can help them see that hurtful words come from hurting people. And we can show them how to take their wounds to God and let Him heal them.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.


Golden Apples in a Silver Bowl

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.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.