“Sticks and stones may break my bones…but words will break my heart.”
The power of life and death is in the tongue.
Have you ever spoken a word in anger or frustration to your kids and wished that you could swallow the words back? Or that a hole would swallow you up?
Our words have power. Our words can build up or destroy our children.
The age of our kids’ doesn’t determine the level of damage we can cause—words can hurt,.
Even with age and thicker skin our kids feel the pain of words spoken in frustration or anger…or more often, just insensitivity. And it is not just OUR words that can wound our kids–it is the words of our other kids (their brothers and sisters) that can harm.
With families of their own, our adult children often forget how a “joke” might sound on the receiving end. The receiver might forget that his/her brother/sister is a person of good intentions… Since there is much more time between interactions the barb can take root and become a huge fence built between us and our adult kids. Or between them and their siblings. What to do?
When our children were young and they started squabbling and bickering we had a rule: if you can’t learn to be friends with your brother and sister you won’t be allowed to make friends with anyone else.
It was a vain threat until we were called to enforce it one week when NO ONE went ANYWHERE without a sibling.
That was all well and good when they were ten and younger—but now the practicality of asking them to all sit in one room for a week and “be friends” doesn’t work out as well.
As parents of adults, we have two courses of action when we know that one child has been hurt by another:
- Continue (as we should be practicing every week) to affirm and support ALL the kids.
Ted is so great about this. Every Friday he writes “love texts” to one or several of the kids or their spouses. This simple encouragement reminds them that they are LOVED, RESPECTED, WORTHY of AFFIRMATION.
ALWAYS speak words of life into your children. Practice speaking of their best characteristics and AFFIRM their strengths.
- Nurture and support the one who is wounded through affirming words, texts, cards, and notes.
Just as words can hurt, they can also heal—but it takes longer! Keep encouraging through words and actions.
Be there for your hurting child.
Celebrate when your child has a victory!
It is JUST as important now as when they were young!
WARNING: As tempting as this is, there is ONLY ONE thing you CANNOT DO when one of your adult children hurts another through words — you cannot be the middle man and ask the offender to apologize or even let that sibling know there is a problem. This is not YOUR story. Making your kids apologize might have worked at 6 and 10—but now, as adults, they have to take ownership of their actions and make their own amends. This is their life and their story.
If you don’t follow this warning, you will end up in the middle of two adults who may eventually make up and turn on you—helicopter parenting is not just out of style—it is dangerous.