Sunday, April 26, 2009

If You Build It...They Will Come

We all remember the movie, Field of Dreams. Back in its hay-day, it seemed like you could find it on TV on at least one channel every day. But that's not the point. The famous line, "If you build it, he will come" reminds me of how influential our words can be on our children. We should use our words to help build our children into good people.

For example, I call the girls "ladies" in the hopes that they will believe they really are ladies and grow up to become genteel women with good manners. I cringe whenever I hear a parent call their child "naughty" or "a brat." Well, if you always call them that, that's what they're going to be. Right? Jon and I try really hard to avoid these phrases and instead say, "That was naughty." Or "You made a naughty choice." We also never miss an opportunity to tell them "You're such a good girl" when they've done something praiseworthy.

Okay, so that last paragraph sounds braggadocios. Sorry. This is just something I feel strongly about.

Labels are powerful.

I'll never forget two examples of this. My brother once told me he could have gone either way as a kid. He had good friends and really bad friends. (Excuse me, friends who made really bad choices.) He was mostly a good kid because that's what his teachers and leaders assumed he was, because of the family he came from. Eventually, that's what he became.

Conversely, one of my dearest friends growing up made some really bad choices in college. I mean, really bad choices. She eventually found herself in a very dark place. It broke my heart to hear her say, "I've finally become what my parents always thought I was." I was speechless. I couldn't fathom what it must have been like for her growing up, trying to prove to her parents she wasn't the bad egg they thought she was, and then finally giving up trying.

Choose carefully what you call your children, even when you think they're not listening. That's the hardest one for me. I'm pretty good about carefully choosing my face-to-face labels, but sometimes I vent to friends and family over the phone. Who knows which set of little elf ears may be listening. I should probably be more careful.

I've found that if your child is acting really bratty, or does something horribly naughty, it helps to use innocuous terms to deal with the situation. Over the course of their lives, my girls have been called, "vixens, squirrels, minxes" and other strange animals, instead of brats. 'Cause sometimes you just have to call them something...especially when they've somehow gotten into the child-locked snack cupboard and are running around in the nude. Vixens? Squirrels? Minxes? You decide.


  1. So true. Aaron's had a hard time with trying to erase many of the labels his father gave him growing up and its just sad. I know it wasn't malicious, but words are very, very powerful.

  2. THanks for the reminders, Nat! THat is something I thought I would never do, negatively label my sweet kids. Sadly, I have failed at times. I need to do better! I love the squirrels, minxes and vixens idea!