By Trudy Ludwig
There are certain words I don’t want coming out of any child’s sweet little mouth. You know the ones: nasty, demeaning words that slither their way out in venomous whispers; racist, sexist, and homophobic words coiled to strike at old and young alike with hurtful intent and precision.
“What’s the big deal?” some may say. “Words are just, well, words. They’re not actual weapons. Haven’t you heard that old saying, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me?’”
Words can hurt
The truth is malicious words do hurt—whether spoken or written by a child or an adult. And when left unchecked, they can have devastating consequences in homes, schools, neighborhoods, cities, and nations:
“Papa, a thoughtful, peaceful man, taught my brothers and me to reject hatred. Hitler taught his people to embrace it.
“Their hatred started with words—hurtful words first whispered, then shouted at neighbors and strangers alike. Those words took root in the hearts and minds of many and turned into something worse.”
– Excerpt from Gifts from the Enemy by Trudy Ludwig
As the mother of two kids and a children’s advocate and author addressing friendship and bullying issues, I take words—my own and those of others—very seriously. I’ve seen and experienced how words have the power to break down or build up the human spirit. Those words become labels, reflecting how others choose to see our children, and, ultimately, they can affect how our kids end up seeing themselves. The reality is that we are all more than our labels. We are all capable of being kind and cruel in the ways we choose to communicate with others.
Our Actions & Inaction Also Speak Volumes
Not all children (or adults for that matter) are comfortable voicing their thoughts and feelings in words. They communicate through their actions: A welcoming smile or the rolling of eyes. Including a child in a group or activity or ignoring her altogether. Standing up to wrongdoings or simply standing by.
We must choose our words and actions wisely because they do matter. And when our nice words aren’t in alliance with our nasty behaviors? Even young children can see how our actions speak greater truths that deceptive words attempt to hide.
Kindness, sincerely expressed by what we say and/or do, has the power to buoy our spirits and allow us, in turn, to rise up, reach out, and connect with others in caring, supportive, and collaborative ways. That’s what I want for my children. That’s what I want for your children, too.
“Empathy, compassion, and giving are the molecular building blocks of our being. With them we expand and thrive; without them we wither.”
– Arianna Huffington
Trudy Ludwig is a children’s advocate and bestselling author of numerous books on bullying including My Secret Bully, Confessions of a Former Bully, and The Invisible Boy. For more information about her work, visit www.trudyludwig.com
This post first appeared on on mamalode.