Words are powerful. We use them to tell others how we feel, what we are thinking, to share information and even communicate how we feel about ourselves. The words you speak can bring comfort, give much needed encouragement, relay instructions or express love. However, words have the power to wound others, to create discord or cause chaos in a classroom. I remember as a child hearing the chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Unfortunately, this is not true. Pain from a physical injury fades but the words that are hurtful or hateful linger long after the situation is over. Words can heal or they can crush a spirit.
Have you noticed the words you speak when you are having a particularly difficult day with the kids in Sunday school? Are they words that help to calm the class or inadvertently fuel the misbehaviors? Many times it is not the words we use but the order we use them in that makes a difference in how the kids respond to our requests. For instance a child is pestering his neighbor, typically an adult would say “stop bothering your neighbor” or “keep your hands to yourself”. It is far more effective to say “Johnny, you are welcome to sit next to Tom as long as you are not bothering him and can keep your hands to yourself”. Johnny now knows he is in charge of whether he gets to sit with his friend Tom. Another example, you have a child who is being disrespectful. Typically an adult will say “Don’t come back into the class until you can show me some respect!” or “Don’t talk to me like that”. Instead, the conversation could go “Tom, feel free to come join the class as soon as you are calm and respectful” or ” I will listen to you when you are being respectful”. Using this type of wording teaches Tom that he has choices over how he is going to behave and the consequences are directly tied to his choices.
For some kids, they may not receive any or a just small amount of words of affirmation or praise during the week. This is especially true of children with challenging behaviors. When you notice a child is behaving well, is really trying to improve their behavior or has done something kind…praise them. It is like a balm to their souls. It can be as simple as “Frank, I noticed that you helped Karen when she fell down. Thank you.” Or “Susie, that was kind of you to help your friend when she was sad. I am proud of you for being such a good friend.” You may be surprised how a child with challenging behavior becomes less challenging when they start receiving praise instead of being in “trouble” once again. Your words of affirmation or praise maybe the only ones they hear all week. All kids like to be recognized and praised.
Words. Your words are powerful, profound and life changing. This week how are you going to use them?