I’ve been thinking about words today. About how interesting and wondrous it must be to live in a world of words that you can’t understand, but that is determined and ruled by them. And, consequently, how your life is guided by them, too.
I’ve been thinking about that verse in Proverbs,
18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
and about how it relates to discipline. Particularly disciplining my 11 month old. We had to teach Norah the meaning of No at 9 months old, much much earlier than most experts suggest. I knew it was time, though, when she would stare at my eyes and pinch me as hard as she could, complete with furrowed brow and an aggressive grunt. She knew what she was doing, and she was definitely doing it on purpose. She learned pretty quickly, but she didn’t like it. Every time I have to use the word No, she bursts into tears. Not because she’s sad that she disobeyed, but because she’s mad about it. There have been times where we go back and forth, her experimenting with her boundaries, and me responding with a firm No, and both of our frustration levels start escalating. I’m learning that there’s power in my words to and about Norah, even if she doesn’t understand them. For example, I started calling her a little stinker on a regular basis, partially because I didn’t know how else to talk about how she made me feel. That darn, little stinker! But then I started to feel that way toward her all the time because I spoke it over her all the time. I really think she could sense it because she started being “a stinker” to me all the time. My words had power, and they were speaking a negative thing over her.
I stopped calling her that. Instead, I started calling her cute names. Nori Pie. Sweetheart. The Nay Nays. And just occasionally “stinko,” when she did something to play with me but that was still, well, stinkerish. And I started doing something else. I started speaking life into attitudes and actions that were good. I began saying “thank you for listening and obeying, Norah,” when she obeyed after I said no. The other day she was making a beeline for the outlet, and I said No very firmly. She stopped in her tracks, and when I said thank you, she smiled at me. Wonder of wonders, no fit after being told No! When I speak life giving words into our discipline interactions, she responds more positively. When I speak negative words to and over her, we struggle and she bristles against my correction.
I want to be a life speaking parent, and I want my kids to be life speaking kids. I guess I’m starting by going back to the basics: not calling names – who knew it could come out in something so childish? – and using please and thank you. We’ll see how this goes…