How Do You Talk About Your Children?

Words can build up; words can tear down... this is true in the words we use regarding our children.  

It seems like so many moms today feel free to openly gripe and grump about their children.  But I believe that we have to be intentional and thoughtful in the words we speak TO or ABOUT our children.  And I believe those words ought to be kind, hopeful words-- words that give life, and words that honor children as God's gift.  

Words like these can be so hurtful and damaging (both to our children, and to the attitudes/hearts of people to whom we are speaking):
  • "Newborns are dull."
  • "Terrible Twos"
  • "Being a mom of little ones is drudgery."
  • "Sooooooo thankful for daycare."
  • "Mommy can't wait for them to get back to school!"
  • "Just like her father/grandfather/sister" (in a negative tone-- obviously this can be said in a positive tone too)
  • "Little miss know-it-all"
  • "Bull in a china shop"
  • "Typical sibling rivalry"
  • "I never get a moment's peace!"
  • "You know how GIRLS are."
  • "You know how BOYS are."
  • "You know how toddlers are."
  • "You know how TEENAGERS are."
  • "Thinks he knows everything."
  • "He doesn't want to listen to his mama, do you buddy?"  (Analyze that for a minute-- what is being reinforced in the way he views/treats his mom? and what kind of relationship is being defined there-- a parent/child one or a buddy/buddy one?)

I can already hear some protests-- "oh come on, lighten up.  You've gotta let off a little steam every now and then."  

Or even some sarcasm: "Right.  Just wait until you have a teenager."

But I'm a words girl.  I love words.  I love the way they merge together to communicate and illuminate.   And seeing as how Jesus is called "The Word" and how words are what He used (not images, not feelings, not paintings, not data) to communicate the truth about Himself, I think God thinks that words matter.

Here are some examples:
  • "What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart."  (Mt 15:18)
  • "Reckless words are like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."  (Prov 12:18)
  • "On the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak." (Mt 12:36)
  • "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." (Prov 18:21)
  • "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." (Prov 16:24)
  • "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also for them." (Mt 7:12)
  • "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." (Prov 14:1)
  • "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" (Ps 141:3)

Labels pronounced upon our children and words hastily spoken about our children-- these things are indicators of deeper things within us.  The things we think come out in our words.  So it's really not only our words that I'm addressing, but also the heart attitudes to which they point.  

Attitudes of annoyance, bitterness, self-importance... and (sorry if this steps on toes) the fact that sometimes, they point to something we ought to DO SOMETHING ABOUT, rather than just gripe about.  

To take the last example up there, spoken to a fictitious cashier or Sunday school teacher-- "He doesn't want to listen to his mama, do you buddy?"  The right thing to do, at that point, is to work on it.  Now that the attitude has been identified (he bucks mom and does not want to honor or listen to what she says), the next step is to deal with it.

Another example?  "Newborns are so dull."  Well, perhaps they are, to you.  But they aren't to everyone.  They are not, in and of themselves, dull.  They are little people, fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who has uniquely designed their every part, even down to the fingerprint.  And you are unnecessarily coloring someone else's view of what might be (for her, one day, if she isn't too scared off or put off by descriptions of "dullness" like this) a God-full, miraculous season of joy and wonder. 

One more example:  "I never get a moment's peace!"  Well.  Whose fault is that?  Is your child supposed to come out of the womb magically knowing that you are a separate person with individual needs and desires, one of which is to have 30 minutes or more of relative silence each day?  No.  You must teach that.  It is not your child's fault that you don't have a moment's peace.  

Here's the thing: you being "bored" says more about you than about your surroundings.  You not getting a moment's peace says more about what you haven't taught your child to do and be, than about your child.

An attitude that says, "I can't wait for them to get out of my hair and get back in school" tells the world something about you,  and will color how they see your children as well (as annoyances-- I mean, let's be honest, if the mom thinks they're miserable to be around, then what are the rest of us supposed to think?).

I'm absolutely not encouraging us to speak untrue things about our children, but to be intentional and thoughtful in the words that we speak.  Catch the words before they come out of your mouth and examine them.  If "she's been a little pill lately", should you do something about that?  If "he's being a punk to his brother", does that merit your attention?  If "you can't wait" to have them out of your hair, what does that say about you and about them?  And is there something that needs to be done in order to deal with that?  

And if you've just grown lax in how you speak about them, let me challenge you to take a step back and choose words that give life.  Words that "build" your home and that build up the people who live there.  Words that encourage and "hope all things", as 1 Corinthians 13 says is loving.  

Especially when speaking about our children, let's be intentional women who use our words intentionally.

Images courtesy of


Renee said...

LOVE this. Great post. Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

good words, Jess :-)
Her's another one that I was very conscious of when the kids were little: "Johnny/Susie doesn't like carrot/meat/cheese/whatever"
I always felt that verbalising what a child didn't like cemented that thought for them ("oh? I don't like that? ok."), so I never did it. Kids' tastes change like the wind, so I just ignored the odd "I don't like this".
It paid off :-) Now as teens they express their preferences from time to time, but when we are visiting, they will all eat everything :-)

Jess said...

such a good encouragement. I can still remember being a child and hearing my mother 'jokingly' ask others about me "do you want a child for the weekend?" It was so wounding, and even though I asked her not to say that, she still would on occasion. When you act like you don't want your children, they won't want you either.

Brittany said...

Thanks for the great post!! I'm copying some of these verses right now. I was just telling my husband the other day that I hear myself making comments about our kids (one in particular...the one who is most like me). They're always said in a joking way, but it isn't until it comes out that I hear how it could be hurtful to him. I've been praying daily that God would guard my mouth, but getting some of these verses ingrained in my head will hopefully help too. My kiddos are unique creations, and I'm so thankful God gave them to me. I want the things they hear me say about them to reflect that.

Kondwani said...

Hi Jess - thanks! Just what I needed tonight. My fuller response is on my home education blog: