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On-Site Staff / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

Words Are Powerful, Use Them Wisely

Growing up, I learned that I had to grow a thick skin. I know people will insult you, and I understand. However, I think it’s essential to emphasize teaching children speech that brings the best out them and others.

As we begin a new year, let us become more mindful of our words. We should exchange words honestly, but tactfully. Sarcasm, jokes, and sharp, candid speech can be taken to heart, even if you’re kidding. Also, we must listen patiently and use our words to express sincere goodwill to maintain positive relationships. Below is a personal story about how words hurt me, the impact language has on development and self-esteem, and ways to help youth become more resilient.

Over the Christmas holiday, I received a lesson in how much words can hurt. My dear old granny had some not-so-nice-comments about my weight. Yep, her words felt like a surprise punch in the gut. I felt silly, but her words cut me. That night, I laid in bed, reflecting on how I felt. I called a friend, and he said, “T, know who you are.” His calming voice was comforting, and I took a few moments to contemplate what he said. He also added, “You don’t have to take in someone’s every word.”

I thought I am a realist, and I understand that people will say things that harm and humiliate at times, but after processing my grandmother’s snarky words I thought, I am an adult, and if her snarky comments have me hugging my pillow, imagine how children must feel when people say unkind things to them. In this blog post, I will remind all of us of the power of spoken words.

Now, imagine you’re a trainer at the gym and you’re training a group of 3 beginners. This trainer gives all three participants a task; they are to run around the track three times. Two of the participants completed the repetitions with ease, while the third participant struggled to complete one lap. The trainer encouraged the third member of the group. “Come on, you can do it,” the trainer shouts. It’s obvious why the third member of the group is struggling, and he is sweating, bent over and breathing so hard to the point that he is hyperventilating. Instead of running, the gentleman grabs a drink of water at the fountain and tries to catch his breath. After recovering, he gets to the track and starts a little jog. The trainer makes a mental note and modifies the third person’s workout regimen. Now, imagine if the trainer keeps pushing the participant beyond his limits?

What happens when we utter words that push people and children beyond their limits? Relating to my story of the trainer, some children are more resilient in dealing with insults that occur at school and home. But what about the children who internalize negative comments? In the story, the trainer could physically see that the participant was struggling. In many cases, you don’t readily see the results of bullying. It is critical for us to discipline ourselves to communicate in ways that convey respect, gentleness, and humility. Words are powerful. We can’t quantify how negatively words can harm the next person, so it is important to choose our words wisely.

On Christmas I smiled and laughed off my old granny’s comments; she is unaware of her words cutting into my insecurity about my weight. However, I am aware, I am mature enough to reflect and try to personally work on myself and process my emotions. For some kids, processing unkind words takes time and can leave devastating emotional scars.

If you’re interested in ways to teach children the power of words, here are even more helpful resources:

  1. The Power of Words 
  2. Words Can Hurt
  3. Sticks and Stones

For breakfast, I had Starbucks coffee and egg and cheese.

Author: @tiana-brown

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