Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (December 22, 2016)
Watch your thoughts for they become your emotions; Watch your emotions for they become your words, Watch your words for they become your actions, Watch your actions for they become your habits, Watch your habits for they become your character, Watch your character for it leads to your destiny.
I was recently taking my baby boy for a walk through the park and taking advantage of the beautiful crisp weather. As we strolled along, we got to enjoy the fresh air, hear birds chirp and see children run around and whizz around of their scooters. Even though my baby is only several months, I started talking to him and narrating all the things we were looking at. It was a calm and enjoyable stroll. But that was soon ruined by some shouting from a few steps away from us.
It was a family of three – parents with their young son, probably about 4 years old or so. We didn’t see what happened but by the time we heard them, the boy was crying and the dad was shouting at him saying “stop crying! Do you know how shameful you look? You stand there – don’t come near me.” Hearing those words, the child cried even louder to which the father growled, “Stop crying. You always do this. If you don’t stop, I’m going to leave you here”. The boy tried to bite his lip to stop himself from crying but his body shook as he tried to hold the sobs in. I, too, had to hold my tears back after seeing that scenario.
A little later on, we saw a little girl throwing a tantrum about something. She was with her helper and the helper walked away leaving the girl trailing behind. As the girl ran up to her and hugged her, she pushed her away saying “I don’t like you. Stop holding onto me.” Once again, I don’t know what happened prior but to me, it doesn’t matter. No one should tell a child that they are not liked and push them away.
Hearing and seeing those scenes broke my heart. And I know that they are more common than I know.
Words. There is power in words. Words have the power to make someone or the power to break them. And we must watch our words because they not only affect us but they certainly affect the people around us. The threatening, harsh and shaming words the two adults used in the situations above reflect their character and will also affect the lives of those children. I remember words said to me over 3 decades ago – words that made me feel useless and ashamed, but also the words that uplifted and empowered me.
It’s easy to let our emotions get to us and to lash out with our words. Being a parent can be tiring, frustrating, and be the one thing that constantly tests our patience but that’s no excuse to threaten, shame, shout or verbally abuse our children. We may quickly forget what we said to them, but not only may they remember what you said, they mostly will remember how you made them feel – hurt, rejected and unloved. And having those feelings will damage the relationship and communication.
So as parents, educators, adults, we need to have self-control and watch our words. The saying that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ isn’t true. Words have more power than we think. Let’s use that power wisely.