Of Grace & Growth: Less Words for More Peace
By Sydney Dorr
In this season of wild boys running naked through the house, launching off furniture onto a brother and devising new ways to argue, beauty looks like peace. Like peaceful days where people are clothed most of time and peaceful moments when no one is yelling “MOM! WHEN ARE YOU COMING OUT OF THE BATHROOM?” It’s tempting to use all the words at my disposal to keep the peace, but I’ve discovered that the fewer words I use, the more peace I have in my day. When I’m intentional about my words, I have more emotional energy and my kids listen and communicate better. Two areas where intentional word-wielding has the most profound effect for me are giving kids instruction and empowering their words.
Instruction: Both boys feel that grocery shopping is a dreary experience if they have to ride in the cart. The deal is they can walk as long as they behave; unfortunately, “behave” is a fluid concept to a 4 year old. After exhausting myself thwarting every fresh harebrained exploit they devised, I needed more defined rules. I came up with “Stay with Mama, keep your hands off each other, keep your hands of the shelf, keep your hands off the cart.” It helped, but I was still talking too much. After careful thought I revised it to “Walk with Mama” and “Hands to Yourself”; everything from playing Spiderman to grabbing unauthorized Kool-Aid packets is covered by those two rules. I save a lot of time and my kids actually kind of internalize the rules. It’s basically just like when Jesus said that the entire Law could be encapsulated by the rules “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Definitely the same thing.
Empowerment: It’s hard when you are 2.5 and your big brother just took your toy so you scream “POOPYHEAD!” in retaliation and then get in trouble for your poor word choice. And though this might surprise my sons, I don’t actually enjoy spending my day telling them what not to say. So I try to save time and people’s feelings by giving them the right words to use. “Say what you are feeling and what you want him to do.” And then we have a conversation based on each kid taking turns sharing those two things. When someone starts complaining about dinner I don’t (usually) launch into the evils of ingratitude. Instead I say with a lift of the eyebrow, “Thanks for making me dinner, Mama.” Sometimes they roll their eyes and walk away, but sometimes they repeat the phrase. By giving my kids positive words in exchange for negative ones, I talk less while communicating more and they hear what good communication sounds like.
You probably have some of your own favorite phrases that save you time and energy. But you – like me – probably also have areas that you spend a lot of words without making much of an impact. Where do you need to do some weeding to only say the most important things? How might that make space for peace to flourish?