A research reveals that an average person, either a man or a woman, speaks approximately 16,000 words a day. Based on that number, so then how many positive (encouraging) words, or in the contrary, how many negative (destructive) words do we say? Which one that is more often do we say?
Furthermore, what kind of words that often come out of our mouth when we interact or communicate with our loved ones?
Of course, our tongue is also involved in this matter. It’s a small part of our body, yet what enormous damage it can do (see James 3:5). Also, it is mentioned in Proverb 18:21 that death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Indeed, negative words may not has direct physical consequences, yet it is perhaps deadly toward our character. When someone has a bad, even weak character due to those negative words, it is hard for them to carry on and move forward. They will also have low self-esteem and feel less appreciated. On the contrary, kind and positive words heal and help; they bring life and health (see Proverbs 15:1 and 4).
We, as parents, can try to apply some of the following related to saying positive words.
Firstly, just start to say positive words, instead of the negative ones. For instance, saying something like, ‘Son, don’t write on the walls!’ is heard as negative words because there is the word don’t in that sentence. Basically, the human brain is created and designed to easily proceed positive words or sentences. It has a significance amount of difficulties for the brain in processing words or sentences with ‘negative’ words like don’t or no. For instance, when we say, Don’t think about purple rabbit, then the brain pictures a purple rabbit instantly. That is why children quite often do what their parents told them not to that is when children hear the words no and don’t from parents.
So, instead of saying some of those sentences above, parents could change them into positive ones such as, Try to write in this old cardboard, okay? Having said that, try not to forbid, but to direct or guide.
Parents can also include touch, or a smile, and an eye contact when they say it. The result, children would consider it as a fun thing to do or pleasant thing to obey, so that their response is just like what parents expected.
Secondly, positive words can also mean to focusing on affirmation. One of the love languages initiated by Gary Chapman is words of affirmation. Also, a compliment or an appreciation is a fine seed to grow self-esteem, confidence, and courage to develop full potentials.
Douglas Bloch and Jon Merritt, both counselors from Oregon, underlined that the spoken words toward children contain hidden messages about them and could inject particular beliefs within them. In other words, the feeling of confidence and everything else around children will be much regarded according to the words that they often hear. When they hear more positive words, then their confidence or beliefs toward everything around them would also become positive.
Having said that, it is essential for parents to say words of affirmation or appreciation, yet without having any intention to make any comparison between their children. Try to say something like, Mom and Dad are proud of you,We love you, Son,You did great, Dear,You’re amazing. We’re proud of you, Honey, etc. So, in the future, those kind of sentences that they hear will form a self worth, and those words would keep echoing even until they are old. It’s true.
Thirdly, sometimes positive words simply mean when we say nothing at all. Here’s an illustration.
One afternoon, a child tells how fun it is to play in the park. He tells about that he climbed a tree, chased a butterfly, and dug a hole to find and see where do those small worms go, and many other things. Yet, when his mom listened as her child explained, she began to worry and responded over and over again by saying something like, How many times I told you not to play in the ground! You’ll get dirty! So many bacteries out there! And you also climbed a tree! What if you fall down?!
From the little illustration above, we can learn that negative words are not merely in the form of harsh words or accusations, but also from judgemental attitude. A word at the right time is like apples of gold in a network of silver (Proverb 25:11, BBE).
That verse shows that giving a good comment at the right time or situation is the right response. Hence, it is good for parents to be good listeners towards their children when they share stories, experiences, etc.
Realize that a child learns something through a different kind of experience that of an adult’s point of view. It is what is meant by the third kind of positive wordswhen we say nothing at all. In other words, our attitude and action show that we listen completely to any message or story that is shared by a child.
IPEKA Counseling Center
– Bloch, D., & Merritt, J. (2006). The Power of Positive Talk: Words to Help Every Child Succeed: A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Other Caring Adults
– Are Woman Really More Talkative than Man? (2007). http://www.sciencemag.org/content/317/5834/82.abstract