It breaks my heart to see missing children posts on social media. I hate to hear of young girls (and boys) who end up missing because they are victims of human trafficking. I am writing this post from the heart. I have personally worked with youth who have been victims of this horrific crime. I have worked with those who have fought to get out and have survived it as well as those who have yet to really escape. One thing that has stood out is the fact that there are a lot of youth who fall victim to human trafficking because they are coaxed into it by those who simply pay attention to them and speak kind words. I've heard from a young lady, "he was the only person who had ever called me pretty"; I've also heard things like "he was the only one that listened to me, and told me that I was special". It breaks my heart that the first time a young person hears kind words is from someone who means them harm. We have to do a better job as parents, godparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. We cannot let our children fall victim to predators simply because we are too busy to speak words of encouragement to them. We need to make it an effort to find positive and encouraging things to say to our youth. We need to use our words to empower them, to edify them, and to reinforce their value.
If words are a weapon, have you been using yours to tear down or build up?
We should not let the only time our children feel special, worthy, seen, or loved be when someone is trying to manipulate them. We have failed if that happens. Our positive words should be so ever-present in our children's minds that it solidifies that they are worthy, that they are seen and known by us, that they are special to us and to the world, and that they are loved and do not have to do things that violate them to earn that love. When was the last time you went and spoke words of encouragement to your child just because? Not because of some achievement, not because they did something you said to do, but simply because they are being themselves. We have to learn to encourage our children to be secure in who they are. By celebrating them and speaking life over them when they are simply just being, we show them that they are good enough just being them. That their worth is not tied to achievements and other external items, but that their worth lies within them. We must learn to look at our children and see what gifts God has placed in them and use our words to help build those things. Does your child love freely? Does your child empathize with others? Does your child laugh freely? Is your child a natural giver? Does your child tend to fight for the underdog and defend others? Is your child creative? Does your child know how to find solutions to problems? Does your child bounce back from disappointments quickly? Does your child stand out?
Often children need an adult's guidance on how to utilize, manage, and embrace their gifts. They need someone older to show them that they add value with the things God's placed in them and what they add naturally. We have to speak these words to our children, not just once but over and over again, until they accept these words as fact.
I hope this post encourages someone to go into their child's room and speak words of encouragement.
"Watch your mouth!"
I grew up hearing this statement. Most of the adults in my life were so concerned with monitoring, checking and correcting the conversations of young people around them. We (the youth) were taught to mind our manners and respect our elders. As you can see, I was raised "old school". Now I'm not knocking the way I was raised, I have grown to appreciate the values that were cultivated within me, even if I didn't always agree with the methods (that's a different post altogether). But I as I have grown, I have come to realize that children aren't the only people who need to watch their mouths.
What I've noticed about this generation of parents is their interaction with their children. To my surprise, my greatest concern is not what the children are saying, but instead it is the words coming from the mouths of parents. In my ten years of working with youth, I was utterly shocked by some of the things I heard parents say to their children. It broke my heart to hear kids say things like "oh, she always says that" or "he's told me that before" after repeating harsh words they have heard from their parents. My first reaction was to get angry and defensive. I wanted to stand up for those kids. I wanted to yell at those parents and make them realize their mistakes. I wanted to shake some of these parents so they would wake up and realize the damage they were causing. Thankfully, before I allowed my emotions to lead me to do something inappropriate, God checked me. I remember reflecting on the question- what if they don't know any better? Contemplating that question calmed my anger and made me start to have compassion for parents who, to be honest, I was judging. It was then that I realized that some parents are simply unaware of the power of their words.
The bible talks about how there is life and death in the power of our tongues. Scripture tells us that we can speak life or we can speak death. That we can use words that will edify, build up, and encourage things that bring healing, happiness, and fulfillment; or we can use words that demean, degrade, and tear down that will bring defeat, discouragement, and despair. Ask yourself: Which category do your words usually fall in- life or death?
Here are reasons why you must speak life into your child:
1.) You are shaping their view of themselves. What you say to your child becomes their inner voice. They are learning who they are and your words are like a mirror that is held up for them. When you tell them negative things, out of frustration or what you think is constructive criticism, it only amounts to your child seeing themselves in that same negative light.
2.) Your words become their words. If your child gets accustomed to hearing your negativity, they will begin to start speaking negatively as well. It is extremely frustrating for a child to hear their parent(s) tell them to stop doing something (i.e. cussing, talking negatively, or arguing), when that behavior has been modeled by their parent(s). You are your child's first teacher, they are learning their actions from you.
3.) You are creating their norm. You are your child's primary relationship. They are not only learning what they should think about themselves from you, but they are also learning what to expect from other relationships in their lives. If they learn that it is normal for someone to constantly berate them, to point out all the things they do wrong, or continually yell at them, this will show up in future relationships. Just ask yourself this- do you want your child to be friends with someone or date someone who treats them in this manner? Do your words teach your child what a loving relationship sounds like?
4.) Life is already hard enough. Your child will have to deal with the life's harsh realities; things like rejection, failure, and disappointment. Some children will have to endure being picked on or bullied at school or on social media. Some children will have to deal with unexpected losses and terrible traumatic events. This is why it is so important for the parental relationship to be a place of safety and edification. When a child comes home from having to face the scary world, they should feel safe and protected when they get home. Home should be the one place a child feels safe enough to let their guard down.
5.) Affirmation is a powerful tool. Affirming your child, reassures them that you see value in them. When a child is already feeling like a failure, already feeling rejected, and already feeling down, that is not the time to give "constructive criticism". It is so much powerful for you to tell your child how they are successful, how they will have other opportunities and how there is hope. Even in the tough conversations, when you are reprimanding them, if you use affirmative language, it helps you separate the "bad" behavior from the child. For example, "You are so responsible. That is why I'm disappointed in your decision to not do your homework." The child doesn't leave the conversation believing they are bad, or that something is wrong with them. They instead hear their good qualities affirmed while being able to see how they've made a mistake.
Remember your words can either build your child up or tear them down little by little. Watch your mouth and choose your words wisely.