(This is a new and updated version of a previously published article.)
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 ESV. One more. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4, NLT.
Words. They may seem harmless, but actually they pack a more powerful punch than a battering ram. They can make or break a person’s spirit, and they are often remembered for a lifetime.
Yes, words are powerful entities. With that in mind, we as parents should carefully weigh which ones we use and how we use them.
Whether a parent uses negative speech or positive speech, it can dramatically affect the direction of a teenager’s life, and the parent’s relationship with him or her. It begins when they are young children and carries through to the teen years. Sadly, sometimes parents who use negative words don’t even realize what they are doing until the damage is done.
Be aware of your choice of words when speaking to and with your teens. Some carefully crafted, positive statements can have an enormous impact on their lives, their state of mind, and their well-being.
I learned several years ago how negative speech verses positive speech affected one of my own children, my 15-year-old daughter, Andrea.
Andrea, as you know if you have read my ebook, The Seventh Request, was an answer to prayer. Bringing her into this world was no small accomplishment. She has been a blessing to everyone in our family.
But big blessings can also come with big struggles.
When Andrea was a toddler, she was a little more difficult to deal with than my other two kids had been. Okay, she was A LOT more difficult to deal with. We always chalked it up to her having to compete with siblings that were a few years older. She learned quickly how to assert herself with her older sister and brother.
Because of her unusually independent and sometimes defiant spirit, I would become frustrated with her. I would often exclaim, with gusto, that she was stubborn. The more I called her stubborn and criticized her for it, the more stubborn and hard to deal with she became.
I became painfully aware that I was the major contributor to her frame of mind, and thus her behavior, through my criticism.
I can’t remember the exact turning point, but God began to show me that I was making a really big mistake. My negative words were actually driving her disposition. Since I called her stubborn, she became more stubborn. I essentially spoke it into existence. It was as if I was telling her how to behave, and she listened.
From that time forward, I decided that I would never again use negative speech or slap any unfavorable or invalidating labels on my kids. Hoping and believing that I still had a chance, I decided to turn things completely around and look at her personality traits in a positive light.
I had to completely change my thinking – and my words.
I developed my own determined resolve to spin my view of her characteristics into something good. Instead of “stubborn,” I called her “determined.” I began to assert that having determination and a strong will would serve her well later in her life. It would keep her from giving up easily when things became difficult, and she would emerge successful in whatever she decided to tackle.
Dealing with Andrea in this new way required oceans full of patience and perseverance. But I kept reminding myself that it would be worth it. The alternative was unacceptable. What I had been doing previously, i.e. criticizing her and labeling her, did NOT work.
Fortunately, my new-found, adjusted attitude toward Andrea began to have a noticeable effect on her entire pattern of behavior. She became happier and more cooperative with each passing day, and our whole family benefited from the positive interactions we all began to experience with Andrea.
Fortunately, my new-found, adjusted attitude toward Andrea began to have a noticeable effect on her entire pattern of behavior.
In hindsight, my decision to view her in a positive light should have been obvious to me from the beginning. But often when parents are on the front lines with their kids (yes, the warfare reference was intentional) we can get overwhelmed and exasperated.
Thankfully, God showed me through whatever means He did, that I needed to change my behavior before I could hope to change hers. My words and attitude needed to change, and I am so glad they did.
It was the first step toward guiding Andrea, and helping her channel her unique talents and traits in a constructive direction. Not to mention, it made her more aware of how much we love her and how much we care about what happens to her. It’s so much better than being fussed at all the time.
Parents, we are absolutely in the driver’s seat.
We have so much more control over our situations with our kids than we realize. Imagine the power we wield with just the words that come out of our mouths. I implore you to use that power wisely and carefully.
Now that Andrea is nearly 16 years old, I have had some time to test my theories about the importance of my parental attitude and to see if they had any merit. So far, so good.
Andrea is a joy and a blessing to our family. She is just as determined now as she was when she was a toddler:
- Determined to do things differently from the ordinary stream of life.
- Determined to be independent.
- Determined to have her own business.
- And most of all, determined to be a success at whatever she chooses to do.
We are all firm believers in the power of positive attitudes in parenting.
If you found this post helpful, or if you have an experience of your own you would like to share, then please scroll down and leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear about your experiences.
I am offering you a link to my ebook, The Seventh Request, which I referred to earlier in this article, and is available on the sidebar. Just click on one of the links to download. In it, you will discover how God can turn tragedy into triumph, how to pray specifically for your needs, and that our children truly are gifts from God. My prayer is that He uses our story to bless your life in some way. Thanks, and as always,