Kids say mean things to each other. Some do it to cause harm,
and some do it out of unawareness or immaturity.
Regardless of why things are said, it can be a challenge
to effectively guide our children when they hear or say something
mean. We feel like we should give a standard, cover-all-the-bases
response (sticks and stones; they are just words!), but there is
more to discuss and consider if we really want our children to
understand the power of words.
Words are alive. They are the first step toward creating
and connecting, and they are the guidelines of how we see and
experience the world. What a child hears on a day-to-day basis will
become what they believe. Not because the words always are true,
but because they hear the words repeatedly.
So to tell a child that words don't mean anything is not
realistic or sincere. They do mean something. When mean words are
said, they can hurt. When words are used lovingly, they can
Our choice of words can define who we are and who we want
to be in the world. Do we want to break people down with our words
or do we want to lift them up? Do we fight with our words or do we
At the same time, words don't have to mean a thing. If
someone calls you a name, you may feel the initial sting of it, but
then you always are left with a choice.
When words are meant to silence or disable you, they are
poison, and they shouldn't be ingested.
When words carry negative intentions, you can choose to
let them go, knowing that hate-filled words are a reflection of
someone else's pain, someone else's inability to feel love,
possibly because of the words they heard throughout their
Instead, we can make a decision to believe helpful and
empowering words, the words that make us feel good and allow us to
be kind and useful human beings.
So we have to live in the paradox - words are powerful and
words mean nothing. And instead of looking for a simple
cut-and-dried response to give to our kids, we need to know that
words and communication skills are an ongoing
Then our children can take responsibility for the words
they choose to use, and the words they choose to
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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