A Lesson for Our Kids on the Power of Words - Baby Chick
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A Lesson for Our Kids on the Power of Words

One mom shares an important lesson about the power of our words and offers ideas for how to encourage your kids to practice kindness.

Published February 28, 2024

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I couldn’t tell you when I heard it for the first time or why, but it’s safe to say it stuck. As a kid growing up, I learned that words were just words. It was normalized to minimize hard feelings because they’d magically go away. Being angry, sad, or disappointed wasn’t a big deal — it was something I just had to “get over.” Now, as an adult raising my own kids, I know how untrue that phrase is. Words do matter, and they cause lasting impacts. While it took me several decades to fully understand this, I’m glad to report that they’re doing things differently these days. And there are ways for us to teach our kids about the power of their words.

The Power of Our Words

Recently, my oldest daughter shared one of her favorite lessons from her guidance counselors on the importance of words. The lesson discussed the impact of our words on the people around us. How one compliment can make someone’s day — or how a few mean words said in anger can be devastating.

The lesson discussed how powerful words can be, whether positive or negative. To illustrate the point in a concrete way, the counselor had the kids crumple up a piece of paper. Each crumple and contortion represented unkind words or bullying. Once they finished, she had them try to get the paper back to the way it was. Of course, no matter how much they smoothed it back out, it wasn’t the same.

She explained that, in a real-life scenario, smoothing the paper out might look like apologizing. But even when we say we’re sorry, when we hurt someone, it never fully erases the impact. Things don’t go back exactly to how they were. The same is true when those mean words get the better of us.

As parents, we want to teach our kids this lesson without the heartbreak, and it starts by leading with empathy. “You can build empathy by teaching the power of words,” says Matthew Schubert, a licensed professional counselor. “When your child understands how certain words make them feel, it helps them understand how their words affect others,” he adds.

Teaching our kiddos to walk in someone else’s shoes teaches them to pause and think about the impact and power of their words. It also helps them be a caring friend to those who have had difficult experiences with bullying. Even though they may not have been made fun of, they understand what it would feel like.

Leading With Empathy and Kindness

Being empathetic in every situation is easier said than done, even for an adult with more practice. It’s even more difficult as a kid, especially when tempers flare. So, how do we teach our kids to be kind and patient?

Schubert recommends that parents start with the basics, like identifying emotions and effectively communicating. “Doing this helps people better understand what you are trying to say and how you’re feeling,” he says. Remember that kindness comes in all shapes and forms. Practicing kindness doesn’t have to include a grand gesture.

Small Ways To Practice Kindness

Kindergarten kids friends arm around sitting smiling

If you’re looking for ways to teach your kids to infuse a little more kindness in their day-to-day lives, consider practicing some of the following:

  • Give a compliment to a friend, a family member, or even a stranger.
  • Practice gratitude and let people know that you appreciate them.
  • Be willing to listen to other people’s problems.
  • Volunteer with local organizations or find different ways to help people out through acts of kindness.
  • Leave notes of encouragement and kind words for people you encounter.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s an excellent place to start if you’re looking for little ways to teach your kids kindness. You also can ask your child about ideas they have. How do they want to practice kindness? How have they received kindness in the past that was meaningful to them?

“Finding the right words and actions to express this is an empowering experience for your kids,” says Schubert. “Something I often hear from kids is that they feel unheard. They feel invisible in the realm of adults making all the rules for them and always telling them what to do,” he adds. When your kiddo gets actively involved in these activities, it feels less like something they have to do and more like something they want to do.

We Are Responsible for Our Words

The words we say are powerful and have lasting impacts. I don’t know why this particular lesson hit home so hard for my daughter, but I’m glad it did. Be it an example with crumpled paper, broken dishes, or toothpaste squeezed out of a tube, the lesson that speaks the loudest is this: You are responsible for your words.

Equally as important, it’s worth saying, again and again, that it’s no extra thing to choose to be kind. Compliment someone. Flash them a smile if they seem to be feeling down. You never know whose day you can turn around or how much of a difference you can make for one person with just a few kind words.

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  • Author

Holly covers lifestyle topics from education to mental health, parenting, and everything in between. She hails from the Midwest, where she’s raising her daughters, writes poetry, drinks copious amounts of… Read more

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