Words Have More Power Than You Think.

When I was a little girl, I had a friend.  We were good friends, but she wasn’t always nice to me.  In 6th grade, she dropped me because I wasn’t in the popular crowd.  But, not before, she stabbed me in the arm with a pencil.  This created a hole in my arm and a conversation starter that I still have to this day.  But, here’s the thing, I don’t even remember.  It was, apparently, just traumatic enough to cause me to repress it, as soon as I told my mom.  I do remember, though, when she told me that I was fat and I believed her.  Even though, I was really, really thin; I believed her.  And, I dieted and I weighed myself at Publix and I dieted some more.  Pretty messed up, huh?

I remember when the swim teacher laughed at me and called me a baby because I was afraid to dive.  (I also remember when my mom ripped me out of the class and, undoubtedly, had a few things to say to the teacher.  My mom had my back.) 

I remember when I was happily riding bikes with my friends and their mom.  When I rode towards the left side of the road, she said, “Don’t you know the rules?  Don’t you know that you have to ride on the right side of the road?”  It doesn’t sound terribly harsh when I type it, but, believe me, the tone was harsh.

I had all kinds of good experiences during my childhood, too, but these moments stuck with me. 


What’s the point?  The point is–words hurt.


Later on, when I completed the girl right of passage by dating my token crappy boyfriend; I took his words with me.  I don’t remember how it felt when he pushed me against the wall.  But, I remember believing that I must be as horrible as he said.  Why else would he have been so emphatic about it?  (I’m sure that Brian has enjoyed trying to un-do that damage over the years…)

Words hurt.

This is something that I’ve tried to remember through the years with my kids.  Even though, I forget sometimes. 

But, recently, I had a reminder.  If you’re dramatic, like me, you might say that it was a powerful reminder.
There is a mom.  Her daughter is a girl scout in Lizzie’s troop.  And, she is just plain not remembering that words can hurt. 

I watched her laugh at her daughter when she dropped the snacks on the floor. I saw her daughter hang her head when her mom announced, loudly, that she’s so clumsy and drops things all of the time.  It was so sad, but, I tried not to judge and chose to assume that it was just one of those things. Ok, I might have vented it out on my facebook, but, still, I didn’t hold a grudge over it.  After all, I know that I say things to my kids that I shouldn’t say. And, in no way am I suggesting that I am any better than her. Well, I do dress better, but that’s not relevant. 😉

But, then there was last week, the girls were decorating cookies.  Lizzie was taking her time with it and slowly frosting the cookies, long after the other girls were done.  Of course, I thought this was adorable and loved that she was into it.  But, the mom made a point of commenting that Lizzie was going really slowly.

While, this was happening, the other little girl came over and showed me her cookies.  I told her how pretty they were and she proceeded to give me details about the different ways that she had decorated them.  But, the problem was, she made statements like “____ did a better job than me.”  “This is grass but I messed it up.” “Here’s a flower but I didn’t do a very good job on it.”

It was hard to listen to. It was painfully obvious that someone was filling her head with these negative thoughts. Of course, I spent the next few minutes telling her how amazing I thought every single thing that she did with the cookies was.  Because, I have my shortcomings, but the ability to gush about little girls’ projects is not one of them.  I ended it with “And, the most important thing is that you had fun doing it.”  After this, she was bubbly and happy and talked to me the rest of the time.  So, I’m guessing that I did some good. 🙂

In the past, Lizzie would cling to my legs in public, especially when encountering groups. Lizzie was so shy and insecure in preschool that the director took me aside and expressed her concerns that Lizzie might have a developmental delay.  She was worried because she wouldn’t answer questions. She has struggled with writing and math in kindergarten, primarily because of lack of confidence.  She has been doing so much better, though, due to her awesome teacher, and maybe, a little bit to her mom who tends to tell her how amazing she is. 🙂 But, still, this weekend when we went to Build-A-Bear for a Girl Scout event, she was nervous.  When she saw the animals being stuffed and saw the employees asking the girls questions, she took a step back and whispered to me, “I don’t know what to say.”  So, we watched for a few minutes before officially getting in line.

So, the point is. She doesn’t need to hear that she’s slow.  Or anything else that is negative or, possibly, negative, or could be construed as negative…  With all the positive vibes coming her way, that could be the comment that she’ll remember. That’s just how it works, sometimes.

I have no doubt that this woman loves her daughter.  I can see it in her eyes.  She doesn’t realize that she’s potentially causing damage.  So, I don’t write this as an excuse to bash a mom.  We’re all just trying to make it, through, after all.

I write this because it really was a reminder.  It’ s a reminder to watch what I say. 

I know that I can be abrupt and a little harsh, sometimes.  This is especially true if you engage me in conversation in the morning.  (Just don’t….)  And, I’m working on it.  I know that I’ve probably said things that are now on the list of comments that the kids will never forget.  Hopefully, some of them were good comments.  But, all I can do now is try even harder.  They need to know that they are awesome, amazing, beautiful, smart, etc, etc.

But, the good news is, yes, the negative sticks with you, but, the positive does, too.  I remember when my mom smiled at me while I was singing in church and said that I sounded nice.  And, I felt so proud that my mom liked my voice.  I remember when she took me with her to decorate hats, then made me feel special by hanging mine on the wall.  I remember that my dad drove my sister and I to the bus stop in the mornings (even though, it was close enough to walk), so that he could spend a few minutes with us.  He would pretend to be speeding up and down the hills and my sister would say “Dad, you’re a wild driver!”  And, he would laugh.  He wasn’t speeding at all, though, of course. 🙂

So, the last several days, I’ve been paying more attention to my words. I’ve tried to use gentler tones.  I’ve taken their hands in mine and (made them) look into my eyes while I looked into theirs and said “I love you and I’m proud of you.”  And, each time, they rolled their eyes and wandered off, but I know that they’re happy to hear it.  (I can’t just give a pat on the back, I gotta go a little cheesy with it!)

So, Lizzie, you go as slow as you want.  You can frost that cookie until it’s stale, for all I care.  You’re amazing and I love you, just as you are.  Just like I love your brothers, just as they are.  Don’t doubt yourself and don’t listen to anyone who says you are too slow, too…anything.  Unless they are saying that you are too much like your mom, then that’s totally a compliment. 😉

I can’t control what she will hear from the outside world, but I can control what she will hear from me.  So, I have to do better.  I just have to. 


Her cookies were awesome! 🙂


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30 thoughts on “Words Have More Power Than You Think.

  1. Hi Emily, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. My husband and I are in the midst of being certified for foster adoption and we are hoping for a sibling group. I ran across your blog when I was trying to find some real life foster adoption experiences. Your viewpoint is so down to earth. The way you write about both the joys and the challenges of building your family this way is very encouraging both to my husband and myself. Keep up the important work! You are making a difference.


  2. Thank you so much! And, I have to apologize for any typos in this post. I didn't mean to post it yet and hadn't edited. Oops! 🙂 (Of course, it probably will be, by the time that you see this response, haha.) That's so exciting, good luck with everything!


  3. Thank you. We have been struggling with some behaviors lately and I needed the reminder that I need to find some good to praise, and not just reprimand the negative. So thank you for that very timely reminder to accent the positive! (And the cookies and kiddo are both cute!)


  4. Thank you and I'm so glad that it helped! 🙂 I feel like I need to re-read it, daily, to remind myself, haha. 🙂 Take care and I hope that things settle down for your family.


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