Using words with care

by Mimi Doe


Words have the power to destroy or heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.
Jack Kornfield

Words: round musical notes that bolster the spirit.
Words: winged thoughts that fly out of the mouth and wedge themselves firmly in the mind of the receiver.

Our words can inspire or cut our children to the quick. Words can clobber the spirit, the spontaneity, the joy, the soul. “Stop making that awful noise!” puts a lid on a child’s musical moment.

Do your words and tone tell your child that he is a burden and a chore, or do they build him up and assure him of his sacredness?

The singing child hears her mother say, “When you sing in the mornings it starts my day so beautifully. Your voice makes me happy.” The child’s spirit soars and she sings again.

- My dad always tells me that his life got better after I was born, that I am his lucky charm. That makes me feel so special, like he really wanted a girl like me. (Age 6)

Words are a window to the soul. Through your child’s words you can glance at her inner world. Pay attention. What is she saying? Is that what she really means? She may need you to help her put her feelings into words.

- I have these feeling sometimes. My mom says, “What are you feeling?” But I’m not sure. I don’t know how to say what I am feeling. There are many of those times. (Age 5)

Ideas come to life when they are put into words. Someone else knows what you are thinking, feeling, exploring, understanding when you communicate. Questions can be answered, inventions can begin, games can start, friendships can grow, wisdom can be shared, spirits can be enriched when children express their ideas.

“We are born with the power of the universe on the tip of our tongues.”

Compliments: Words that empower

Pay attention to the power words have on your children. It’s always a boost for kids to know what you, almighty parent, are thinking about them. Assess your child’s positive qualities, then let him know what you think.

Why shouldn’t your three-year-old know that she is beautiful with apple-red cheeks or your 10-year-old hear that he is a quick learner?  Let kids overhear you use positive statements about them. Somehow it is much more powerful to hear, “Let me ask Lynn about decorating the living room; she is so good with color,” than “Lynn, what color do you think we should paint the living room?”

The same goes when we pass along words of praise or compliments. Kids need to hear how great they are directly from you, but they also need the message indirectly, from other people, through you. It seems to stick better. When you relay a positive remark that someone else has made, it lodges in a child's mind and adds a glimmer to her heart.

You might even write positive words on index cards and keep them in a Compliment Box. Your child can pull out nourishing words when he needs a boost.

Remember this: Any word you speak with meaning will have power.
Ernest Holmes


© Mimi Doe
Reprinted with permission from 
Mimi Doe is the Founder of and the award-winning author of five books for parents including, Busy but Balanced (St. Martin’s Press) and 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting (HarperCollins).

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem