Words that Win: Adjusting our Attitudes Through our Speech
I have a 4 year-old daughter, and a 2 year-old daughter. And soon I will have yet another little girl. I love my girls with every fiber of my being. They are the best gifts God has ever given me. But let’s be real… parenting little humans is no joke. Before I became a parent, I would hear how hard parenting was but could never quite understand it. What could possibly be so hard about staying in your pajamas all day to take care of cute little kids? And then I had kids. Now I get it.
God has given my husband and me two daughters with VERY strong personalities. (We are crossing our fingers that the third is a bit more laid back.) Our firstborn has always been a happy girl but has hated sleep from the day she came out of the womb. Our second sleeps well but was colicky as a newborn and basically hated life for 18 months until we figured out she was just miserable from a dairy allergy.
One of the best ways to cope with the endless drama, the sleepless nights, the meltdowns in the grocery store, and the constant mess is to vent about it with other mamas who are in the same season. It's comforting to know someone else totally understands what it feels like to walk around with poop on your shirt all day, to accidently eat their boogers because you thought it was a piece of banana on their cheek, or deep clean the bathroom after your daughter decided she wanted to stand to pee like a boy (Yes, unfortunately these are all true stories).
I love venting. I love telling my friends about the crazy things my kids do, and I also love hearing the strange things their kids came up with too. We laugh, and it makes parenting feel less serious, overwhelming, and lonely.
But recently, I have noticed the attitude behind my venting had shifted. I don’t think I would have come to this realization if not for God’s gentle conviction through His Word. Our church recently studied Ephesians (which, by the way, is super convicting as a parent). One morning, I read a verse I have read thousands of times, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander…”(Eph. 4:31) but it hit my heart in a new way. I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to ponder this in the context of my parenting – particularly the slander part. Somehow I had allowed my attitude about parenting to become bitter and angry and it was coming out in the way I spoke about my children to other people.
It wasn’t like I was saying horrible things about my children, but my words were definitely not encouraging, helpful, positive, or necessary. I spoke about them as if they were burdens instead of blessings.
Our attitudes and beliefs not only have a huge effect on our words, but conversely our words also have a huge impact on our attitudes and beliefs. How we speak about our children will impact how we see them (not to mention how they see themselves because let’s be honest – kids hear everything.) If you continually tell others that your toddler is a grump, then you will start treating her that way. If you tell others that your kids are horrible monsters to each other, then you most likely will miss the moments when they are actually being sweet to each other. You get the point.
God’s Word has much to say about the weight our words hold. Proverbs 18:12 says, “The tongue can bring death or life….” Every one of us have probably experienced how someone else’s damaging words killed our self-esteem, our dreams, and even our relationships. But here is the good news… words also have tremendous power to bring life to self-esteem, dreams, and relationships. When our attitudes become less than pleasant; God promises to help us turn it all around. If you let Him, he is able to “transform you into a new person by changing the way you THINK” (Romans 12:2).
Now hear me out, every mama has those days where it feels impossible to find the good in your child. Maybe your toddler is constantly whining over EVERYTHING, or your kids are so dang mean to each other, you’re considering asking your parents to adopt them. I encourage every mama to call up their mom tribe, tell them about their hard day, and maybe even have a good cry. However, I think there is a way to do this that honors both your children and the Lord.
Here are a few suggestions for adjusting our attitudes by changing the way we speak about those we love. If you don’t have kids or your kids are strangely well-behaved, I think these rules can work for venting about your husband, mom, sister, whoever.
Here they are…
1. Use “I feel” statements
This keeps the focus on your feelings rather than blaming the other person for your attitude. For example: If your kid's epic temper tantrum forces you to leave early from breakfast with your girlfriends, instead of saying something dramatic like, “My kids are on a mission to keep me from doing ANYTHING enjoyable” say, “I feel frustrated with the sacrifices that come along with parenting.”
Challenge: How can you use an “I feel” statement to share the blame with your child today?
2. Be honest with what you feel but don’t forget what is true.
This is commonly seen in the Psalms. The psalmists are brutally honest with their hurts, disappointments, and doubts, but they always come back to the truth of who God is and what he has done for them. For example: When you are in a season of parenting that has more bad days than good say, “I’m having a really hard time enjoying my kids right now, but I know they are gifts from God.” Here is another example that I deeply resonate with these days: “I am so tired of being touched all day, but I know that someday I will miss snuggling with my babies.”
Challenge: How can you use truth to give yourself perspective on parenting today?
3. Lighten up a little bit.
Yes, we need to discipline and guide our kids, but I wonder if we often make a bigger deal out of situations than we need to. This season of parenting littles is short and sometimes we need to relax and embrace the chaos. For example: When your kid belts out every freaking Disney song at the top of her lungs in the grocery store, instead of shushing her boisterousness, try saying, “I love how happy and free you feel to sing in front of strangers.” Or maybe, “You make every errand an interesting adventure!”
Challenge: How can you relax in order to better enjoy the quirks of your child today?
I hope these words encourage a few of you out there. It is never too late to change our speech, and it may even have the power to change a few of our tough relationships.
Here is a short prayer from Psalm 19:14 to pray over your speech,
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.