The Power of Words

The way you speak to your kids becomes their inner voice.
~ Jack Canfield, Co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul series

Elise and me in front of our new home site
Elise and me in front of our new home site

Tock, thock, thwack! Ugh! I couldn’t believe the builders were already hammering away on our house at 7:30 in the morning. I quickly got the kids dressed and fed, then picked up my one- month-old son, Jacob.

“Elise,” I called to my three-year-old daughter. “Let’s go play outside a little while.”

We walked out on the front porch where I sat down and swayed in the swing with Jacob while she played happily in the yard.

I was exhausted from having a newborn and moving into our newly built home in the space of only a month. Construction on our back screen porch wasn’t quite complete, so our builder, Jerry, was there trying to finish up. Because the hammering thundered in every area of the house, I thought it’d be a little quieter outside.

A couple of hours later Jerry was still pounding away on the back porch, but the stifling summer heat was becoming too much for Jacob. I called Elise and told her we needed to go in.

“Make sure you move your tricycle out of the driveway,” I instructed. “Jerry could come flying around the corner and run over it.”

Elise turned to me, eyes wide with bewilderment. “Jerry can fly?”

I laughed out loud as I envisioned our tall, lanky contractor—complete with ball cap and tool belt—sprouting wings and flying down our driveway and into the street.

“I meant Jerry might pull out of the driveway too fast and not see your tricycle in the way,” I explained, still chuckling from her literal interpretation.

She didn’t seem convinced.

Elise and Jacob
Elise and Jacob

I’ve enjoyed telling that story many times over the last 18 years, especially to Elise. When I unconsciously used that metaphor, it never occurred to me she wouldn’t understand it.

Words have power. That one word—flying—changed my daughter’s perception of Jerry. It’s a sobering thought to realize the things we say to our children have so much influence on their little minds. I wonder what else I may have said over the years that could have been misunderstood by them they may not have asked me about.

words block

It’s important for us to be careful what words we use when speaking to our kids. Most of the time it’s harmless misconceptions, but sometimes…those words can make an eternal difference in their mindset, especially as they get older.

Words kill. Words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.
~Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

If your child is struggling with negative feelings about him or herself, take the time to sit down and talk. It may be that something you’ve inadvertently said has encouraged detrimental self-talk to develop in their minds. I know I’ve been guilty of using the wrong words more than a few times when addressing my kids. But when I’ve realized what I said made an unfavorable impact, talking it out usually helps them understand the true intent of my words.

Jacob saluting


What things have your children misunderstood that caused a chuckle or two? Please share your cute kid quotes!