Understanding the power of words and expressions is a powerful and empowering awareness. It is challenging to examine our habits in terms of the words and phrases we use, but it is also exciting.
There are many words and phrases that are used without considering their full meaning or impact. They are simply used because they have been accepted as common knowledge, colloquial language germane to a cultural or ethnic region and a convenient way to express a thought. Although our ideals might progress, our language maintains some phrases that are detrimental to our well-being. Such phrases as:
o Boys don’t cry…….Boys have feelings too until someone tells them they shouldn’t.
o Don’t be a sissy…..Boys need to process their feelings just as much as girls.
o Boys will be boys…Children will be children and they look to adults to set the limits and provide guidance on ‘What to do.”
o Anxious child………Children whose feelings are seldom processed react with anxiousness.
o Good child…………Praising is important, however, it needs to be specific.
o Lazy child………….Children are highly motivated, they need to be guided and encouraged–age and experience appropriate.
o Problem child……..Children are never ‘the problem.’ The parent needs to learn to be the parent the child needs–not the converse.
o Obstinate child……Same explanation as above.
o Rebellious child…..Same explanation as above.
o Illegitimate child…..Every human is a child of God–therefore how can a child be illegitimate?
o When you grow up to be a Mommy–you will___….This statement implies girls need to be a Mother to have an identity. The healthy statement is–What do you want to do to earn money when you grow up or graduate college?
o What do you want to be when you grow up?….This question implies a person is no one, until she/he has a label–i.e. doctor, lawyer, worker, truck driver, etc.) The healthy question is–What do you want to do to earn money when you grow up or graduate college?
o You should/shouldn’t……If you/I want____, You/I need to___.
o You have to/must………..If you/I want____. You/I will need to____.
o Why did you/Why didn’t you……Ask questions: When, What, Where, Who, Which, How?
o You always………You are usually____ or Usually_____.
o You never………..You seldom____.
o If only____…………In the future, if ______please______ or consider____.
o Yes, But_____……Paraphrase what you heard (Pause–take a deep breath.) Give an explanation. Avoid giving excuses.
While these phrases are used without harmful intent, they are inherently negative. Children are especially sensitive to such phrases, which can stay with them for a lifetime adversely affecting their self-image and undermining their self-esteem. If the person fails to recognize their negative impact, they pass it on to the next generation–the greatest sin of all. When you recognize the negative impact of words and phrases, you can create positive change by choosing to use affirming and positive words/phrases.
Language is the easiest and most effective way we can exercise our free will, creating positive change in the world around us by simply choosing carefully the words we use. It may seem like a small inconsequential thing, but our words have a ripple effect, like a stone tossed in a pond. People naturally pick up on the way other people speak, consciously or unconsciously changing the way they speak in response. You do not need to actively work to influence people; it takes place without your even thinking about it. All you need to do is choose to be more conscious and conscientious, eliminating words and phrases that are hack-kneed, insensitive, or harmful. You can create new phrases that carry positive and loving energy to replace the old ones.
You may know phrases you would like to eliminate from your language/vocabulary. Now that you are thinking about it you may notice more. As you consciously decide not to use these words/phrases, you may feel lighter and more joyful, knowing that you have chosen to drop baggage that was handed down to you from a less conscious source. As you do so, you elevate the language/vocabulary for future generations, who would thank you if they knew the gift you gave them.