Do our word choices matter with children too young to speak them back?
I like to sit and ponder. Organize. Plot out. I suppose that's expected of someone who loves to write. But do I get to do that with the most consequential task in the world? The one where you only truly learn on the job?
OF COURSE NOT! That would be too easy.
I wanna hole up somewhere alone and figure out the perfect balance so I don't miss any golden opportunities for teaching at such a foundational age. So I can figure out all the minute details of balancing wife-ing, mothering, taking care of myself, practicing my own non-parenting skills (for me, that's writing and music), being a good neighbor, etc. etc. Oh.....and I suppose I should include house cleaning in there somewhere. That one's definitely at the bottom of the totem pole. And I don't even walk my dog every other day. I own a SIBERIAN HUSKY!
I know anyone can do these things. But doing them well? I mean...REALLY well? That takes some serious leveling up. It takes laying down a thousand selfish or simply unhelpful little habits we don't even realize we've accumulated throughout the day. Unfortunately, laying down habits we are unaware of isn't something we can plan for. We learn and mature on the go.
None of this seems like that big of a deal until the day you see your toddler(s) accurately imitating all the little things you do. For me, it hit when I heard one of them growl under their breath just like I'd been doing all week.
I started paying closer attention to my little habits, including my words.
Soon, I caught myself saying, "Stop! That's not nice." After half-heartedly tossing out the word NICE twice more that day, it didn't feel right. So the next time Angry Brother went to hit Unintentionally Offending Brother, I traded NICE for KIND.
Who cares, Becca. They're just toddlers, they'll get the point.
Words are so much more powerful than we give them credit for. They stay with us and they impact both the hearer and the speaker. Similar words can indicate very different things.
I don't want to raise NICE boys.
Nice is so...surface-y and obligational. It's a catch all word and way of being.
KIND goes much deeper because anyone can be nice if they want something, but true kindness comes from an honest character. A trustworthy character. It has nothing to do with self and everything to do with another.
I even spoke and acted differently when introducing KIND to my boys than I did with NICE. My hope in raising children is that they eventually act out of a place of thoughtfulness and not just a place of self-preservation (i.e. simply avoiding punishment). And I think the words spoken over them and ourselves make a huge difference in the type of growth that takes place.
SEE?! This is one of those learning-on-the-job moments I hadn't even thought of until I was in the middle of it! My so called planning and plotting for that day most likely would've centered around less consequential things than words, tone, and modeling healthy small habits.
Words matter, even with children too young to speak them back.