As my two girls get older and begin to have conversations with each other, I keenly listen to how they speak to each other. One is eight and the other four (an old at heart four year old!), and despite the age difference, they have full-blown conversations about their friends, the games they play, and the best Total Dramarama character.
At times, the discussions can get heated, and their choice of words and how they speak to each other calls for some Mama intervention. Teaching our kids about the power of their words is an important life skill to encourage kindness, empathy, and understanding and will stand to them as they grow up. But how can we help them understand that, at times, words hurt?
Why Do Words Matter?
We grew up with the mantra, "stick and stones will bring my bones, but words can never hurt me". I think we all realise that this is, in fact, not true. Words can hurt and leave hidden and silent scars that can last for much longer than intended.
The Paper Analogy
We can routinely tell our kids that certain words hurt, that how we speak to each other matters, but this may go in one ear and out the other for many kids. A visual understanding of the concept of the power of our words can work much better.
The Paper Analogy is one of the simplest and most poignant ways to show children the lasting effect of our comments, our words, and how we speak.
Take a plain, crisp piece of paper. Ask your child to hold it and describe it. The paper is blank, uncreased and fresh. Then, ask them to crumple it up. After doing this, ask them to squeeze it, stand on it and flatten it. Once they have walked all over the paper, ask them to pick it up and say sorry to the paper. They can tell the paper how sad they are for crumpling it up and marking it. Now, ask them to open the paper and smooth out its wrinkles flatly.
We can then help the child to see that no matter how often we apologise or try to make amends, those first words (stomps, crunches, and crumples) are difficult and almost impossible to smooth out, take back, or undo. Those words leave a lasting impression.
The Power Of Words
Kids will not always remember the weight of their words and may forget that a strong tone can be hurtful. Helping our kids understand the emotions connected to our words comes with reminding them about the power of words. We can encourage them to be kind, empathetic and considerate of each other’s feelings by reminding them that our words can leave wrinkles on our hearts and minds.