Words

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

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

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.

Getting Your Kids to Talk

She walks through the door head down, tears in her eyes. I know she's had a rough day. Yet, when I ask the question, "What's wrong?" I get a muttered "Nothing." As she heads to her room to do homework, I stare after her, wondering "How can I get her to talk to me?"

Does that scenariio sound familiar? It has played out in my home more times than I can count. There's little more frustrating for a parent than knowing there's something bothering your child but being unable to get to the root of the problem.

Getting our children to talk to us can be difficult. Both my girls can talk my ear off, but often they choose to clam up when it comes to telling me about their days. They give one-word answers or tell me only half the story. I have found, however, that there are things I can do to make them more willing to talk with me. Here's what works in our house.

Create a time to listen. Set aside a time in your day that's specifically for talking with your kids. Do whatever works best for you. It can be breakfast or bedtime or any time in between. In our house, when 3 p.m. rolls around, I set aside whatever I'm doing, set out a snack and sit on the front porch to wait for my middle schooler to get home. By the time she walks up the driveway, I'm ready to listen to her. We have 10 minutes before her sister gets home in which she gets my undivided attention.

Be ready to listen. Too often, the temptation is to solve our kids' problems. But what they really need is for us to listen to them without judgment and without interruption. When our kids know we are willing to listen, they're more likely to talk. Too often, we're ready to jump in with suggestions and help before we really listen to what our kids have to say. Proverbs 18:13 says "To answer before listening—that is folly and shame." We want to be able to offer what our kids need, whether its comfort or advice, and we can't do that well if we don't listen to what they have to say.

Ask questions. Some kids will spill everything that's in their hearts with little prompting from you. But some kids need to be encouraged to talk. I've found that asking my older daughter general questions like, "How was your day?" works just fine, but with my younger daughter, that question results in a one-word answer. With her, I usually ask very specific questions like "What did you do in math? Who did you sit with at lunch? What funny thing happened today? What are you reading in class?" Those questions generally lead her to tell me more about what went on in her day and will lead to the things that are on her heart.

Don't expect to hear everything. Some kids simply won't share things that are bothering them until they are ready. No amount of questioning or being ready to listen will change that. Unless it's a situation where you believe they are in danger of some kind of harm, let your child know you are available to listen, then leave it be. Generally, kids will come talk to us when they are ready.

Don't try to fix everything. Our kids need our love. They need our advice. They need our comfort. What they don't need is for us to solve all their problems. When your child has a problem, help them work it through. Give suggestions, but don't jump in and solve it. Show them how to reach their own solution. This gives them confidence to solve their own problems and also makes you a valuable resource for your child.

Listening to our kids may be the most important thing we can do to help them grow spiritually and emotionally. Encouraging them to talk with us means that we create time to listen to them and that we don't try to solve all their problems. Today, spend some time simply listening to the heart of your child.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife and A Heart Reflected.

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.

Words and Anger

"Don't say it unless you mean it." Those words have come out of my mouth no less than a dozen times in the past three days. After spending five days with my parents, including close to 30 hours in the car, my girls came home to snipe at one another. Apparently they've had a little too much togetherness.

Too often, we're like my girls, we say things we don't mean. And when anger rules our tongues, the words that roll off of them often aren't true, aren't uplifting and aren't kind. Anger makes us say things we don't mean. It makes us wish we could take back words after they have spilled out. I can't count how many times I've said something to one of my kids in anger that has crushed their spirits, and I wish I could take it back. But I can't.

The danger with speaking in anger is that we do damage that is unforgettable and irrepairable. So we must learn to control our tongues -- even in the midst of being angry. Ephesians 4:29 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." See that little word "any?" It means we have to control our words all the time -- not just when we're calm. There are no exceptions in that command for words spoken in anger.

The key to controlling our words when we're angry is God. We absolutely cannot control our words on our own. So, when we're angry, we need to stop and pray. Before we open our mouths, our first words need to be to directed toward God. We need to ask Him to control our tongues. Think of the damage that could be contained if we let God be the one in charge of our words. Harsh words would go unsaid and little spirits would stay intact.

If you or your kids struggle with controlling your words in anger, try this exercise to drive home the point of how words spoken in anger can leave permanent damage. Tack up a blank piece of a paper to a bulletin board. Every time your child gets angry, have him stick a tack in the paper. Explain that that tack is his words spoken in anger. They are sharp, and they hurt the person they are directed at.

When the paper is full of tacks, start having your child take a tack out each day. Explain that taking the tack out is like offering an apology. When all the tacks are gone, ask your child what he sees on the paper. It's still filled with holes. That's because no matter how much we apologize, our words can leave lasting wounds, just like the tacks left holes in that paper.

Our words are a powerful tool. They can be used to persuade and to share love or they can be used to poke holes in others' souls. We choose. When we let anger rule, we choose to hurt others. When we let God rule we choose to share love. It's that simple. Remember to stop and pray when you get angry because we want to stop leaving holes in others' souls.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Rejoicing Over Progress

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.

My First Job is Mom

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.

 

Choosing to Control Our Words

I was on the phone. My oldest daughter was following me around. Every time I moved, she followed. She wasn't interrupting, just following. Finally, I looked at her and said, "Why are you following me around like a lost puppy?" "I wanted to talk to you," she replied and walked away with her head hanging.

We were going to be late to guitar lessons. I looked at my youngest daughter who was busy eating her snack. "Go get your guitar and get in the car!" I said. "Can you ask me to do something instead of yelling? Maybe say please?" she said.

"Are you mad at me?" asks my youngest daughter with a forlorn look on her face. "No, why?" I say. "You sound like you're mad at me," she says.

We've had all of these conversations in the past few days. I'm not proud of any of them. All of them are conversations that could have and should have had a different tone. There's nothing wrong with asking my daughter not to follow me around while I'm on the phone or telling my daughter to get in the car for guitar lessons. What is wrong is that I wounded their hearts in doing so.

I've got a lot on my plate right now. I have a couple of freelance projects I'm working on, hockey and soccer have started back up, we're trying to finish our basement before we have company this summer, I'm speaking at and helping to coordinate our women's retreat. No matter how hard I try, there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.

And to my regret, that frustration and stress comes out in my conversations with my kids. The problem is not that I don't know how to control my words. The problem is that I'm choosing not to. I'm taking out my internal stress on the people I love the most, and it hurts their spirits.

My oldest daughter is super sensitive to the things that people say. I know this, yet I chose not to curb my own tongue. My youngest daughter seems tough on the outside, but she has a sensitive heart, and she hates for people to be mad at her. Yet, I chose not to curb my tongue.

Proverbs 15:1 says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." I don't want to stir up anger in the hearts of my children. I want my answers to be gentle. I want to guide them wisely. I don't want the pressures in my life to overflow into the way I deal with my kids.

I know that I can do better, but I also know that if I try to do it on my own I'll fail. I've proven that I don't always choose the right path. I don't always think before I open my mouth. So, my prayer this morning is simply a cry for help. Lord, help me to offer gentle answers to my children. Put your hand over my mouth and force me to think before I open it. Let me lead my children, not exasperate them.

I'm placing Proverbs 15:1 in a prominent place in my house today as a reminder to offer gentle answers. Maybe you need to do the same.

Join the conversation over at the Everyday Truth Facebook page.

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