E+E Column: The Power of Words

Recently, Sophia and Isaac have been experimenting with language and discovering the power that words can hold. As I watch them bicker and occasionally say some pretty hurtful things to each other, I can’t say that I agree with the old adage ‘sticks and bones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. Everything is amplified and absolute in their minds, we’ve had a lot of ‘I’m NEVER playing with you again!’, ‘you’re not my sister/brother anymore’ and all sorts of similar declarations in between. Generally, such exclamations are met with tears or angry shouts from the other. It’s hard not to get disheartened and weary when you hear them arguing in this manner although I’m aware their youth has a part to play in a lot of what they say.

It’s an interesting one really, children spend their first 2-3 years learning to speak and at that point, it’s just a case of pronounication and basic meaning, how to communicate needs, wants and observations. From then on, things get a bit more complicated. They slowly learn to express their feelings, how to communicate effectively with others, how you talk differently to peers and adults, familiar and unknown people, how to make people laugh, how to compliment someone, how to hurt. It’s a lot to get your head around; no wonder things often descend into dramatic statements! Luckily, they also say a heck of a lot of funny and heart warming things to even out the meaness. Most memorably recently, having put Isaac to bed 20 minutes previously, I snuck upstairs to get something only to hear a little voice call out. ‘Mummy….you’re lovely’ Aww, sweet. I thanked him. ‘And sometimes you’re a bit cheeky’. Ok, I’ll take that with a smile. ‘And also, you’re a little bit annoying’. Gee, thanks son!

Every parent has a bank of these cute mispronounciations, of phrases their children copied without knowing the meaning, of early declarations of love that they’ll remember forever. And it is these love filled memories and moments that I want to concentrate on, rather than those that seem full of anger and malice (although I know they probably don’t mean them really). I’m trying to teach them the gravity of saying such strongly worded things to each other, to help them through the maze of language so they can learn to use it carefully, considerately and kindly. Rather than the rhyme about sticks and stones, I’m going to be sticking to a quote I saw on a friend’s wall ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.

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