Remember the nursery rhyme we learned as children? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Even as children, we knew that the rhyme was not true! The words that people said and the way they were spoken did hurt—often leaving deep, painful scars that might last a lifetime.
Words matter. Words can build up, or words can tear down. Words influence our day-to-day living. Words are powerful. As teachers and parents, do we choose and use our words carefully?
Shawn Drake writes about his experience:
“Big ears”, “Dumbo”, “Mickey Mouse” were just a few of the names that I was called growing up. When I was a 2nd grader, I tried to tape my ears down. Every time I would come home crying about the names I was called, my momma would say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. My mom has told me many things that were correct; but this one is a lie. Words can hurt. The Bible says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword.” Our words can cut like a knife. They can hurt others. We all know that God hears every word we say and he knows every thought we have in our mind. It is very important for us to be careful about the things we think and say.” 1
Dr. Scott Turansky provides the following insights regarding the use of sarcasm:
Communication is like sitting at a table and passing messages back and forth. Anyone can take a piece of paper and a pencil, write down a message, and give it to anyone else across the table. A sarcastic remark, however, is like handing one piece of paper over the table and another one under the table. It sends mixed signals as the word message is inconsistent with the tone of voice. Family communication may sound like this:
“Yeah, you’re too tired to take out the trash but just wait until your phone rings, then we’ll see how tired you are.” Or “I worked hard today. I didn’t just sit around the house like some other people I know.” Or “Sit around the house! I can’t believe you. How come you’re so smart with a computer but you can’t seem to figure out how to work the vacuum cleaner?”
Some people are pretty quick when it comes to cutting others with their mouth. Bad communication habits become ingrained quickly so watch out for the sarcasm trap. A wise parent will hear sarcasm and gently ask questions about the hidden message. “The way you said that communicates that you’re angry or frustrated with me?” or “You said ‘right’ as if you agreed, but I can tell by your tone of voice that you don’t believe what I’m saying is true. Is that correct?”
Sarcasm isn’t always wrong. Sometimes it’s just a way of having fun. Many times, however, sarcasm is a way of stabbing someone in the back. Learn to recognize it and challenge it when it’s used inappropriately. Some children and even adults have a lifestyle of using sarcasm. Those patterns can be hard to change, but challenging sarcasm can be a healthy step toward honest communication. 2
Words are powerful. We pray that each of us take every opportunity possible to speak words of love and encouragement to our children. A word of encouragement has the potential to change the course of a child’s life. Let us remember what the Bible teaches in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
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Free Thanksgiving Resource
On the fourth Thursday of November, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday honoring the early settlers and their harvest feast known as the first Thanksgiving. But where did the Pilgrims get the idea in the first place? Enjoyable and spiritually instructive, Thanksgiving-Your Peace Offering is highly recommended. Read to your children, print and send home with kids, or email directly to parents. Click here for an immediate download.
1 Shawn Drake. Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me. SermonCentral.
2 Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. Parenting is Heart Work.