Here are some helpful guiding questions to consider when you’re thinking whether certain words you use with your kids are life-giving or potentially destructive.
Would you rather hear the life-giving words “that’s great” instead of “that’s dumb?” What about the word “yes” instead of the word “no”? Or “you’re fun to be with” rather than “you’re boring?” Do you notice a difference in the momentum these words most likely create inside of you? Words can give, shift, and stop the momentum. The power of the tongue to speak life into our families is tremendous. Some words can give life, and some can be life-taking and potentially crushing in a child’s mind.
In Genesis, we read about God bringing life through His loving, powerful, relational, and creative words. God’s Word is powerful and full of love for us! In contrast, we also read about Satan bringing division, deception, and destruction through his words. Satan’s words created a momentum of shame and blame as God’s people grappled with the destructive deception and sin within their souls. Yet, God’s Word brought the momentum of love and life.
The power of the tongue is incredible. Words can build, and they can destroy. Words carry meaning and momentum within a person and relationships. Speaking life-giving words can bring love, encourage, distract, bring truth, deceive, fill a room, help pass the time, connect, guide, divide, form perceptions, and impact our memories.
Creating an Inventory of Life-Giving Words
Have you ever stopped to think about the power of the tongue when talking to your spouse and kids? What inventory of words do you use?
I can still vividly remember standing in line at Disney World, waiting for our turn to ride the roller coaster. Nearby, I watched a father’s words destroy his son. A family had just gotten off the ride, and we were next in line when I heard the attendant get the family’s attention, “Sir, you forgot your belongings.” The teen son sheepishly went to get his belongings. When he returned, his father slapped his son upside the head and loudly said, “You’re so stupid!” I watched as the young man internally turned into a shame-filled, fearful, insecure little boy. The momentum the father created with his words was devastating!
A Biblical Perspective on the Power of the Tongue
Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
In Matthew 15:18, Jesus says that out of the abundance of our hearts come our words. What is the momentum inside of you and how is that coming out in your words?
The popular passage, Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” The next verse follows in saying: “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” Words can truly show the springs drying up and can shift momentum in people away from life.
Inviting God to search your heart is a critical part of eliminating life-sucking internal dynamics that may be going on inside of you as you try to bring life and direction to your children. Ask Him to help you recognize the power of the tongue, and to guide your words in ways that are honoring to Him.
An Invitation to Speak Life-Giving Words
Parenting is an invitation toward life, which begins at conception. It is an invitation to be transformed, to challenge, and to love deeply. Your words matter in the life and story of your child. The power of the tongue has the ability to build and destroy.
How can you use words to create a life-giving home and build self-confidence and guidance in your child?
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “…and these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
In other words, if you love God with all your heart, soul, and might, and God’s word dwells in you, it creates a life-giving momentum in your words that can build at any time within your child’s life.
Are My Words Life-Giving?
Here are some helpful guiding questions to consider when you’re thinking about whether certain words you use are life-giving or potentially destructive.
1. Are They True?
Not all words that are true are life-giving. You will need discernment to think through what truths your child needs and the timing of the truths. By the way, it’s not bad to tell a child they are not good at something but make sure to follow it up with something they are good at to give them helpful, life-giving information.
If your child has heard some lies about who they are, help them regain their perception through trustworthy and genuine truths about who they are. Philippians 4:8 says to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. In the next verse, Paul writes, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Words based on truth set a momentum toward trust, genuineness, and growth when given within the context of a loving intention.
2. Are They Encouraging?
Words can help make observations of strengths the child may know, suspect, or need to hear. Sometimes kids need to hear that things are going to be okay.
Paul was encouraging and spoke life-giving in his words to his disciple Timothy. Through these words, Paul created a momentum of courage and calling in young Timothy into ministry.
Be genuine and honest with your encouraging words. If a child is awful at basketball and knows it, it is not helpful to say they are good at basketball. In fact, your words will lose their meaning if you give false encouragement. You can use the list of life-giving words at the end of this article to begin learning meaningful and honest encouraging words.
3. Are They Loving?
Words can help your child know they are loved. I’ve met with many people in my counseling practice who were either very sad they rarely heard the words “I love you” growing up or lamented that they rarely used the words with their families. Do you communicate your love to your child with your life-giving words? Do you provide verbal observations of the things you love in your child?
4. Are They Helpful?
Words can help guide a child’s growth when given in a loving context. You can teach important, life-giving lessons to your children with your words. Words that speak life can make a child laugh to help them relax or help build knowledge that can be turned into wisdom. What are your goals with your words as your child approaches adulthood filled with building and managing relationships of their own?
5. Are They Important?
Words can be defining. For example, kids need to learn from an early age how to handle the words “yes” and “no” and “don’t” and ”you can’t” and “you can.” These words are momentum stoppers and momentum makers.
Also, speaking life-giving words is important because those words help guide by teaching important concepts about life, relationships, responsibility, work, and finances. For example, when my son was a toddler, the ball we were playing with got away from us and into the street. My son began to go toward the street, and I had to say sternly, “No! Don’t go in the street!” He looked upset, but my words coupled with emotional intensity helped him understand that it was not okay to go out into the street. It was life-giving to him because I said it with his best interest in mind, within the context of a loving and trusting relationship. I helped him see that I was not angry at him, but I was focused on teaching him something vital.
Strategies for Speaking Life-Giving Words to Your Family
Consider the following strategies for thinking through ways to speak life into your family:
- Take some time to write down and discuss words that are fueling to you and to each family member.
- Consider what are 3 negative momentum and 3 positive momentum words for you and others in the family?
- Share the different types of momentum that are created through words. Share with one another how the power of the tongue can create different momentum (i.e., feel motivated, anxious, depressed).
Finally, take some time to explore and discuss these passages about important words as a family.
- Proverbs 5:1-2 – Attentiveness to certain words will preserve life and allow wisdom to flow from you.
- Proverbs 6:20-23 – This passage provides a glimpse at the life-giving words from Deuteronomy 6:5-7 that are a lamp, light, and a way of life.
A helpful sample list of life-giving words can be downloaded below. Keep adding to the list as you observe the momentum your words create in your child.
The list is just the beginning of your life-giving words inventory and will help you to start speaking life into your family. Remember that your list will include words that are helpful for encouragement, motivation, correction, direction, and re-direction.
Speaking Life-Giving Words and Effective Parenting
Life-giving words are part of being an authoritative parent, which also involves balancing warmth, sensitivity, and responsiveness with direction and guidance. They involve understanding the power of the tongue. Ultimately, life-giving words from a mom or a dad show a 7 Traits “Life-Giving” Parent. In fact, you are bringing all 7 traits to your parenting when you are modeling and leading the use of life-giving words in your family. May God strengthen you and your home through the amazing momentum life-giving words can provide the soul and your home.
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