Words are a gift; we don’t learn language by ourselves.
The words we give to children will teach them how to think; their thoughts build their brain, so it’s important to give them the very best building materials.
At first, the need is fairly clear – momma, dadda, ba-ba, no! Some young parents wisely encourage their toddlers to “use your words” instead of whining or wailing.
It doesn’t take too many years before the need for words grows, because it doesn’t take too long before the child lives in the big, fallen, struggling world.
In the big world, I have to learn words like “cancer,” “death,” and “divorce.” I have to learn words like “orphan,” “unemployed,” and “poverty.” It’s not too long before I hear the words “below grade level,” “at-risk,” “disability,” “trauma,” or “abuse.”
The words we give to children build their world – and give them access to health, help, and healing – or not.
When we attach words to circumstances and struggles, the words can slam the door to hope and mature relationships, or they can lead our children on the path of unconditional love, forgiveness, and restoration.
What words are we handing our children? What is the source of their increasing vocabulary?
Helpful sources include:
- Conversations with trusted and mature friends and family
- Good books – especially when we read them together
- Listening to mature adults at the dinner table.
Sources that need appropriate protection include:
- The internet
- Social media
- Children’s books that are not mature
- Peer conversations, especially about struggles or conflict
Books that offer sarcasm, disrespect for authority, dishonor for parents, ridicule, or poor problem solving ideas are not helpful. Children of the same age don’t always offer each other mature advice because they’re at similar maturity stages; there’s no one available to hand down wisdom.
Children need mature words and mature strategies to handle mature struggles. Without new language to help honestly name the issue – and describe the steps for resolution – a child is left to use the words they know. Words like “stupid,” or “loser;” words like “I’m never going to get this right,” or “No one is ever going to be my friend.”
We must give them language to help them find their voice; what voice are we helping them find?
Words of grace are most helpful. Grace = unconditional love and acceptance + unwavering truth.
I love the word picture John Lynch paints in his Two Roads message: Looking at my big pile of sin, God has His arm around me and He’s smiling when He says, “My, my, my – that is a lot of sin. Don’t you ever sleep?! I’ve got you, kid. I’ve known about this from before the beginning of time. We’ll work on it together when you’re ready.”
Our children need to hear us calmly say, “Oh wow; that hurts. I’ve got you, kid; it’s not going to last forever. We’ll work on it together.”
Then we teach them words like “trust” and “forgive.” We sit beside them and teach them the word “resolve.” We stay with them and celebrate when they understand the word “restoration.”
Sometimes we have to teach our children to say, “I don’t believe that lie anymore.” When others hand them insults, we give them this reply, “You can hand me that if you want to, but I’m not going to take it.” That phrase is only helpful if we have taught them their true identity.
Our children learn their true identity with generous helpings of words of affirmation, direction, correction, and attention for who they are – not just what they do.
How do you know if your child has an adequate vocabulary? This simple test: Listen to what they say when they struggle. Can they articulate the difference between mad and disappointed? Between sad and hurt? Between hungry and bored? Between in love and lonely?
Next, listen to how they plan to resolve their struggle? Do their words explain a mature response? If not, offer them a more appropriate selection – of words.
I’ll conclude with this encouraging BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious):
Words are free! Let’s spoil our children with elaborate, beautiful, and only the best. . . Words!
Please share your words with me in a comment! Thank you.