The Power of Words

July 22, 2010 at 6:10 am 7 comments


What does this mean for our kids and the words with which we surround them? You probably aren’t visiting this site if you find yourself frequently bellowing “you make me sick!”, but what if we were EXTRA diligent with our words and our children? What words do you want to rain down on your loved ones? What words do you want to linger in their bloodstream? With which words do you want to paper their lives?


When choosing words I look for ones that describe what I want to happen, or that describe how I want my child to think of herself.

Will you slide that glass of milk over so that it stays on the table? (not, “so that you don’t spill the milk”)

That bench is pretty splintery, will you sit over here so that you stay safe? (not, “Look out! You’ll get a splinter if you sit there.)

The pants were designed to go the opposite way, can I help you turn them around? ( not, ” Your pants are on wrong.”)

I’m going to pick up this towel so that it stays dry. (not, “so that it doesn’t get wet”)

That’s so funny! (not, “You’re so silly.”)

Can I help you stay safe? (not, “Careful!)

Will you put this on so that you stay warm? (not, “You’ll freeze without a coat!)

Will you speak more quietly? (not, “Stop yelling!)

The river water isn’t healthy for you. Do you want the water that we brought? (not, ” Ew! Stop drinking that. You’ll make yourself sick.)

Will you talk to your sister and work something else out? (not, “No fighting!”)

Words dramatically affect the environment, peaceful, positive words create a peaceful and positive space. Children also take words very seriously, especially when they come from their parents. If they hear, bad, wrong, no, hit, yell, they will associate these words with themselves as human beings and stretch to meet that expectation.

And pragmatically speaking, if you say:

Don’t poke your eye with that stick!

Law of Attraction dictates that, somehow, the stick will make its way to the eyeball. Describing what you actually want to happen, or how you want your children to be, will save everyone a lot of grief.


Entry filed under: life lessons, parenting principles. Tags: , .

Did I ever Mention This? Obedience

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joanna  |  July 22, 2010 at 11:37 am

    sometimes I feel like I HAVE to be ultra dramatic with my five year old, because even if i say, “it isn’t safe to run into the road”, he might still act like he’s gonna do it. so I have to bellow something like, “that could break your whole body and make you die” because it could, and I’m terrified. is this terrible???? seriously, I’m wondering if there is a better way?

    • 2. nataliechristensen  |  July 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm

      We were just talking about this today. One friend of mine lost it with her kids after days and days of grabbing and fighting (on their part) and yelled her head off. And it worked. I myself have certainly been known to explain in detail what horrific things will happen to my kids if they do this, or that, especially with the older girls when they are pushing things trying to find out what I’m trying to keep them safe from. There is certainly a time and place for drama and a raised voice, but what I’m hoping is that these are rare moments, and made especially potent by their rarity.

  • 3. Myers  |  July 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Well said.

    The one that drew my attention the most was “That’s so funny!” not “You’re so silly!” … and it’s interesting because “You’re so silly!” isn’t readily seen as negative, and yet it falls under the category of labeling someone, instead of describing their actions.

    I was labeled a lot as a kid, and I was a child who followed my mother’s rules, so most of the time those labels were positive coming from her as I did what she wanted, but I always felt uncomfortable with her slapping a label on me, as if I couldn’t move or change — or as if I was ONLY what she said I was.

    Is that what you’re getting at here, or did you have a slightly different take?

    • 4. nataliechristensen  |  July 22, 2010 at 8:16 pm

      Yes. I try to steer clear of labeling, positive or negative, precisely because it locks a child in. I too obeyed quite well and was labeled smart and good, which on one hand felt okay because I was doing things “right”, but also filled me with anxiety lest I do something “wrong” and thus fall from grace.
      I remember being called silly because of some joke or other, but I actually wasn’t making a joke, I was trying something out, trying to get an understanding of my world. Instead of offering me information or attempting to find out what my intention was, “You’re so silly!” was thrown at me. It is often the catch all that adults use when they either don’t know what to say or are simply ready to move on.
      As an adult to be called silly is to be called foolish, I think it resonates as such even when used with children.

  • 5. Jessi  |  July 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    This is a little off subject but I just wanted to say:

    I have found such resonance in your blog as to my own views on parenting, my own ideals on ‘how i’ll do it’, or pure inspiration in things i’d never even thought of before.
    I’ve decided on a list of things that potential partners must do while we get to know one another, it is as follows:

    1. go to dog park and see how potential-partner interacts with dogs

    (it’s a great casual hang out and a good way to see how they will get along with my dog – also shows how they are with kids since i find a lot of commonality in dog park behaviors and kid park behaviors. )

    2. meet my family

    (important since i spend so much time with them)

    3. read your blog?

    (this would come a little later down the road from meeting my dog and my family but, i’d like your permission to have any potential-partner of mine read your blog so they may be apprised of my ideas on parenting. there are only so many things I can say or describe as to my ideas because i don’t have kids yet. i am absolutely in love with the way you and nathan choose to parent and hope to walk a similar parent-path when my time comes. this is key when long term partnering and feel that anyone i’m with would benefit from understanding what it looks like to parent with empathy, patience, and love.)

    hopefully this is taken as the high compliment i’m intending it to be.

    i believe that people often don’t communicate about the ideas they have regarding parenting opinions enough, especially before they have a child to parent – this can lead to a lot of heartache for both the parents and the child(ren). since i’m very passionate about how I want to interact with my dog, my students, and my kids i believe this to be a very important topic to talk about with my partners. your blog seems like it would be a very useful tool in that process. thank you.

    • 6. nataliechristensen  |  July 24, 2010 at 7:55 am

      This is definitely taken as the high compliment it was meant to be. And although I am biased, I think it sounds like a darn good plan.

  • 7. Shut. UP! | "A Beautiful Place of the World"  |  July 23, 2010 at 2:50 am

    […] a version, and/or might actually create what I want to avoid. For more on this one, and more on Law of Attraction language with kids check out Natalie’s post on the […]


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