Monday, December 7, 2009

What Do You Tell Your Children?

By Norman and Ann Bales

Have you ever thought about the implications of what you tell your children? Careless words, thoughtless remarks, biased opinions, harsh criticisms, and cynical statements all have the potential to seriously damage a child’s future well being.

On the other hand, words of encouragement, expressions of support, praise for a job well done, and other forms of positive reinforcement have the potential of enhancing a child’s development.

Think about some of the things parents say to their children:
  • “You’re no good.”
  • “You’re mean—bad to the bone.”
  • “You’re never going to amount to anything.”
  • “You’re dumb.”
  • “You never do anything right.”
If children hear those kinds of messages repeatedly, they probably will end up believing what they hear. Those ideas are internalized, and negative behavior patterns follow.

On the other hand, think about some of the things children hear when they grow up with positive reinforcement:
  • “You’re a blessing from God.”
  • “You’re a good boy (or girl).”
  • “You’re going to do something great some day.”
  • “You’re learning.”
  • “It didn’t turn out right this time; you’ll get it next time.”

Parents underrate the power of their words. They think little Johnny will let carelessly spoken words pass from his hearing without any long-term effect. One put-down probably doesn’t cause a great deal of damage; but if that becomes a pattern, Johnny may decide that he’s hopelessly ensnared in a psychological trap that wipes out any opportunity for personal achievement. Some children feel so worthless they later turn to drugs, illicit sex, and criminal behavior.

Parents who understand the power of words, know their children are going to grow up in a negative world. They also know that it takes several positive reinforcement statements to counteract the negative impact of just one verbal slam. If little Mary grows up believing that she is loveable and capable, She has a much better chance of becoming a happy and productive member of society.. F. Scott Fitzgerald was right on target when he said, “You can stroke people with words.”

- Norman and Ann Bales, All About Families; via The Family Friend, a monthly newsletter published by the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY. It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the family. To learn more consult the congregation's website:

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