by Dennis Trittin
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!”
Do kids still sing that little chant these days? If they do they’re wrong! The reality is that words have incredible power. They can be uplifting or destructive. They can be true or false. They can stay with the person to whom you communicated, or go in a million different directions outside of your control. This is especially true if they are expressed in an email, Facebook®, Twitter®, or text—so watch out!
These days, the destructive power of words can be an increasing problem for our kids as their exposure to social media and to communication outside our supervision increases. It doesn’t help that words conveyed via device rather than “in person” can be even bolder and more cutting when the inhibition of being face to face is removed. “Cyber bullying” is a harsh reality of our culture.
Do your children understand that it doesn’t take much for a spark to ignite a fire? And, that the words a person speaks reveal much about his or her character and emotional security—especially when talking about someone who is not present? Our words speak to our trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness, and respect.
With that in mind, I encourage you and your family to do a self-check. Here’s a good question to ask each person around your dinner table some evening: “What do your words reveal about you?”
Here’s another idea. Try this “Integrity Challenge” for a week: Commit to only saying things about others that you wouldn’t mind them overhearing. That’s right—ONLY neutral or positive! You (and your kids) will be amazed by how it affects your choice of words, and ultimately, your character and spirit! It makes us more tactful and respectful, and less judgmental. And, it helps build a stronger culture by the way it impacts others around us.
Then take it a step further. What if we started a movement to take this “Integrity Challenge” to heart? What if we challenged ourselves and those around us—our extended families, friends, co-workers, teachers, students, etc.—to live by this principle and see the difference it makes? What if it became a way of life in how we ALL think, relate, and communicate about others? Can you even imagine the possibilities? It might just change the world—in a wonderful way!
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead, and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. To read more or order, visit www.dennistrittin.com or www.parentingforthelaunch.com.