To Be More Joyful: Watch Your Words

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We’ve all heard about the dangers of the tongue. How we use (or don’t use) our words has a tremendous impact on those around us as well as on our own attitudes. How we speak has a direct impact on how much joy we will find in life, especially “life as MOM.”

Negativity Breeds More of the Same

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1

We know this to be true. If we speak harshly or even impatiently with others, chances are we won’t get a cheerful response. Negative words beget more negativity. And quite honestly, that’s no fun at all. For anyone.

What can I do when fiery words are on the tip of my tongue?

  • take a deep breath
  • walk away from the situation
  • count to 10
  • think of another way to say it.

These alternatives are easier said than done. But, if I think through the kind of situations that will tempt me toward angry words, I can think through a better response.

Wise Words with Others

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. — Ephesians 4:29

It matters how we say things to my kids. Many times we can be unaware that we’re speakingly in less than uplifting ways. These days with children of varying ages and stages of development, I’m trying to weigh my words carefully and to say what I really mean.

Here are some examples FishPapa and I have learned over the years:

“You stink.”

To a baby or toddler in need of a diaper change, “You stink,” conveys the wrong message. It’s good to help a child of this age to recognize a poopy diaper; that’s a necessary part of toilet training. However, saying “Your diaper needs changing,” more accurately conveys your meaning and doesn’t confuse who your child is with the circumstances of his diaper. It’s a subtle difference, but we’ve found that it helps in making our child feel loved and cared for.

“You’re driving me crazy.”

I often find myself lamenting to my toddler these words. She is into everything, all the time. Upon reflection, I’m realizing this isn’t good for her or for me. The things that annoy me (inquisitiveness, exploration, growing independence) are the things that are developmentally appropriate for her. She’s doing what a healthy toddler should be doing. To harp on the annoyance this causes me conveys to her, either through words or tone of voice, that I don’t like who she is in this season of life. It also blocks me from truly enjoying this stage of her development. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t correct and teach. But, if I stopped complaining, we’d probably both enjoy each other more.

“I love you, but…. (fill in your child’s transgression).”

As humans, we tend to dwell on the last message we hear. The “I love you” can fall on deaf ears, while the “you messed up” message lingers, surely not how we want to help our children grow and develop. I’ve felt convicted to turn it around.

“You made a mistake, but I love you,” is a much more powerful and encouraging message.

Clear Thinking About Yourself

How we talk to ourselves impacts how we feel about “life as MOM.” I don’t know about you, but these thoughts plague me:

  • I am such a rotten mom.
  • I sure messed that up.
  • I can’t believe I always do that!

These are not messages that will help us grow and change. It’s good for us to assess ourselves as moms and to determine how we’re going to grow. But fixating on our blunders doesn’t help us change.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13-14

Plan a different response for next time. Be hopeful for a different outcome:

  • I feel like a rotten mom because I was impatient and didn’t hear the whole story. Next time, I will make an effort to listen better.
  • I sure messed up that outing, but next time I’ll get us up earlier so that we won’t be rushed and I won’t be tempted to snap at the kids.
  • I often forget to spend individual time with each child, but next week I will schedule playtime/talk time with each one.

Obviously, none of us is the perfect communicator, nor the perfect mom. There is always room for growth in patience, kindness, and love for our families. Watching how we speak to others can significantly improve life as MOM as well as help us be more joyful.

How do YOU watch your words?

** This is part of the series, 14 Ways To Be More Joyful.

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  1. Thank you…I really try to be mindful of my words but need a constant reminder. I often say, “you kids are driving me nuts!” The other day, I overheard my 3 year old daughter tell my 2 year old son the same exact thing! My son replied so sadly, “I’m not a nut!”. What a wake up call!

  2. Oh, such a needed reminder! I tend to be sarcastic and hard on myself … but, as you say, “These are not messages that will help us grow and change. It’s good for us to assess ourselves as moms and to determine how we’re going to grow. But fixating on our blunders doesn’t help us change.”

    Thanks! I needed this today 🙂

  3. Thanks for a great reminder! I know I’m guilty of the “crazy” one… So often I speak to fill the air, without thinking through what I say first.

  4. Thank you so much for your “joyful” series and spiritual insights. I would typically skip these types of posts, but I find your posts exactly what I need to hear as a mother. You are really right on what mothers need to hear and remember. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for this timely message. I just told my husband the other day that we need to be more positive to our teenager and to remember to praise him for his good choices instead of always reminding him of the consequences of his bad decisions. At this time in his life, it is quite easy to get caught up in making every situation into a lecture but forget he really does have some great qualities. And like little ones, personalities and development play a huge role – but not necessarily in a bad way if you remember to look for the good in it. That’s why this summer we are playing up on his independent streak and teaching him life skills he’ll need when he lives on his own 🙂 !!

  6. Thanks so much for this…I printed out the first one (Proverbs 15:1) and hung it up as a daily reminder/affirmation for myself. It will come in especially handy when dealing with my “spirited” 5 year old redheaded daughter. 🙂

  7. Thank you for the encouragement! I have been praying and thinking about the tongue this very morning! I especially needed the reminder to press on and not dwell on past failures. Their is so much more to come!

  8. Really well said – great inspiration for me to be a better person today 🙂

  9. am excited about this series. I am truly needing some major perspective in this area. We went without kids this weekend and by the end of the 1 st night, the husband asks “don’t you miss them?” and i respond with “no, not yet.”

    I long to find more joy in my children.

    1. @Mama Llama,
      I am right there with you! Joy is very hard to grab a hold of, especially in the area of motherhood! I am excited about this series, as well!

    2. @Mama Llama, I am so with you! Now that my children are older, (and I’ve had the help from a wonderful family therapist–more on that in a moment) I am able to experience a great deal of joy with them. But, when they were younger, it was very difficult. I try to remember that the qualities that make it difficult (mine are strong willed, tenacious, and very creative) are often excellent qualities in the long run. The best advice from our family therapist–two gems–one, to only worry about what I can control, and if it’s outside of my control (say, my child’s tantrum, in public) then all I can control is how I respond, preferably calmly. 😉 The other gem, is in the phrasing when I need to get them to do something they don’t want to do–“I know going through your backpack is stressful for you. How can we make it better?” Sometimes, a negotiated game of cards together has made all the difference. I also realize my own gifts are a better match for older children and that caring for young children was really, really difficult for me. Sorry for being so lengthy. [email protected]

  10. This past week I found myself saying that I am a lousy mom, so thank you for these reminders.

  11. I love the “but I love you” as the last part of your message to your child! Such a simple idea to just turn it around, but so powerful! I will definitely be trying to put this one to use! I have been really trying to remember to just “randomly” tell my children how much I love them, appreciate them, etc.

    Just tonight I told my son that he had been a really good boy today and did a great job listening. He looked at me and said, “thank you mommy!”

  12. Thank you for posting this! I am a young sahm with an 11 month old baby girl, who is the light of my life, and your blog is so encouraging to me. I love that its full of faith and being Christ-centered and also is a tool to teach good stewardship! thanks again and blessings!

  13. Ouch, ouch, ouch…guilty on all accounts! I am going to ask the Lord to help me with all of these. Thank you for keeping us all accountable!

    1. I hope that you didn’t feel preached at. I am in the same boat. 😉

  14. Jessica,
    This was soooo good. I too often say Your Driving Me Crazy…..ouch. Your words are so so so true. I’m gonna work on that. THANK YOU.


  15. This came at just the right time! It’s so hard to stay calm in the moment and choose the right words, then beat yourself up about it later. Time to take a deep breath and start a new day!

  16. I agree with the other commenters that this is a great post! I find myself saying some of the same things you do, and I know that I have to find better ways to view situations and to phrase my comments to my son. Thank you!

  17. Thanks for this post. I try very hard to be careful what I say because I know that my children are listening…all of them. What I say to my son, I am very likely to hear my daughter repeat to him. And it’s not appropriate for her to call him a “stinky boy.”