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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words...


How are you utilizing the potency of words in your life? According to scripture, words can either give life or bring death. This is a serious power that we hold. Words spoken to children can either destroy their spirits or uplift them. How do they influence your home?

When my children were young, I taught them a twist on an old saying. It went like this: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart."


I was raised on the "words will never hurt me" version. Never in human history has a more blatant lie been pressed on a generation of children. Words are powerful; words change the world; words hurt or words heal; words matter.


Serious scientific studies have shown over and over that the words we use and the words we hear have a significant effect on our mental, emotional, and even physical health. Our age doesn't seem to matter. Words hurt or heal all people.


This blog space is about children, and here is what I know about young children: their minds and spirits are being formed, and their sense of what is expected and accepted is developing based on what they experience in the first three years of life.


As childhood moves on, daily experiences continue to build children's sense of how we value each other, and what it means to be a family or a community. The most pervasive way we communicate these things to our children is through our words. How we speak to our children imprints on their hearts. The words they hear matter a great deal.


Let's do a quick inventory of how you speak to your children. Give yourself an honest appraisal:

  • How often do the adults in your home shout in anger or frustration?

  • How often do the adults in your home use profanity in any way?

  • How often do the adults in your home berate the children for an infraction of rules or expectations? (berating is an angry and accusative scolding that goes on for several minutes)

  • How often do the adults in your home use "put-downs" or negative sarcasm as a way of expressing displeasure at a person or situation?

  • How often is negative name-calling used in your home?


How did you do? As you may have guessed, these uses of words are harmful to your children's mental and emotional health. In addition, they are ineffective as a means of gaining order in your home and will impact your child's sense of safety.


When these communication tactics are the norm in your home you are greatly increasing your child's chance of experiencing PTSD, anxiety, and anti-social behavior. These are facts.


Even if you "don't mean it " when you use these verbal tactics in your home, or you wish you had a better way, or when you feel that you have no choice if you are going to be heard, these types of verbal exchanges are bad for children's well being. A better way is available.


I find it interesting that these days when our society rightly considers it unacceptable to use derogatory references toward any ethnic group I still hear profanity at full volume everywhere I go. E

I see car window decals that proudly proclaim that "Good Moms Drop F-Bombs". I witness road rage, service people being berated, and more. This is every bit as offensive as using the language of bigots. What are we doing? Are you contributing to this? If so, why?


We seem to be in a phase in our society where profanity is the norm, but teachers can no longer say "boys and girls" because those terms are offensive. (See link)



United Methodist Ministers have been told not to use the words "husband and wife" because these terms are also offensive. (See link)



Yet profanity is fine and is protected as free speech. Public ranting is commonplace and we excuse it for a variety of reasons. As a society, we have devolved. Be a change agent.


If you want to change the way your words affect your children and the wider world, there are some things you can do. Take a serious stock of your verbal habits at home. Change the atmosphere. We all want to live in a peaceful and safe Harbor Home. Don't you want that for your child?


  1. Hold yourself to higher expectations. Expect more from yourself than what you are currently delivering. Profanity and constant bickering and complaining are harmful, but there's more. Those who use profanity and other negative speech sound weak, crass, and unprofessional. In addition, your public profanity is going into the minds of people who make a conscious decision each day to keep their minds free from negative influences. You can do better. Rise.

  2. Replace the negative in your life. Find ways to influence your language by changing what you listen to. Music, podcasts, toxic coworkers, etc. Replace negative with positive. Find uplifting music with positive messages, Find podcasts that encourage you to live on a higher plane. Distance yourself from toxic coworkers and tell them why. You can rise above where you are now.

  3. Berating, belittling, and bullying are feeble tools. Many of us know at least one bully who believes that they hold power in their world by berating, belittling, bullying, complaining, and manipulating through anger. If these are your tools, throw them out. If you consider these to be a means of instilling "discipline" in your child, you are completely wrong. You couldn't be more wrong if you tried. You are harming your child and your future relationship with them. Uncover the power of affirmation, and encouragement. You will save your child. And yourself.

  4. At least 90% of all communication is nonverbal. What does your body language say? What about your tone of voice? What about your use of sarcasm? Sarcasm is completely lost on children under ten. Their brain development does not compute sarcasm on any level. They take words literally. But they do hear your tone of voice and are confused when your tone and your words don't match. Speak positively.


It is impossible to overstate the influence that your words have on your home and your children. When you speak positively you are speaking life. Negative speech brings death to the soul and spirit. Be the grownup in your home and community. Speak in a way that shows you have evolved beyond the most base level of humanity. Use words well. They are valuable.





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