Powerful Words

We teach our babies how to say them, starting with simple sounds, like da-da-da and ma-ma-ma. Our babies watch us as we make silly faces and move our lips and tongues. They try to imitate us. We wait for our babies to say their first words. And when they do, it’s powerful.

We speak them daily.
We use words to express our thoughts, our feelings… the things inside us that make us who we are.
We listen to words to understand others – their thoughts, their feelings… the things that make them who they are.

They reflect what’s inside.

They can build up.
But they can also tear down.

Words. Have. Power.

Why do I write about words?
Because words matter.
Words matter very much.

The words I want to write about today are those we speak about our children.
I have noticed – perhaps since being pregnant and having a baby myself – the words parents speak about their children, born and yet to be born.

Here are some examples of the words I’m talking about. They go something like this:

“We had our 20 week ultrasound, but couldn’t tell the baby’s gender… baby kept its legs crossed. Baby is so stubborn.”

“Baby kicked me all night long, but is quiet when I’m awake. She’s already trying to annoy me and make sure I don’t sleep.”

“Check out this 4D ultrasound photo. Baby covered her face. She’s such a drama queen already.”

Stubborn… annoying… drama queen.
I’d be offended if anyone spoke these words about my child.

I’ve heard the negative, labeling phrases continue as the children are born and begin to grow:

“Look at him smiling! He’s probably laughing to himself about how sleep deprived I am.”

“She cries every time I sit down to eat. She’s two months old but already manipulating me into getting what she wants.”

“He pulls my hair and smiles. I think he thinks it’s funny to hurt me. He’s a mean baby.”

Sinister… manipulating… mean.
Maybe you’ve said or heard phrases like this and think, “Well, I think it’s true. He IS mean.”

I don’t think the intention behind these words is necessarily meant to harm. Perhaps parents of unborn babies, as they speak words such as these, are attributing phrases and personality characteristics to describe their little one they haven’t seen yet in order to make the whole thing real to them.
I get that. It’s hard to believe there’s a real person growing inside of you!

Maybe it’s a bonding thing.

Or perhaps we simply haven’t given thought to what we’re even saying.

Let me share my heart on this for a moment.
Better yet, let me share God’s heart:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Those who love it will eat its fruit.
{Proverbs 18:21}

I’ll say it again.
Words have power.

The Bible says words have the power of death and life.
God spoke words that brought creation into existence.
He speaks LIFE.

Remember Jesus?
He just spoke the words and people came back from the dead.
One dude sat up in his coffin at the power of Jesus’ words {Luke 7}.
And we can’t forget Lazarus, who had been dead for 4 days when Jesus commanded him to come back to life. Jesus spoke the word and out walked Lazarus from his tomb. {John 11}

For those of us in the world for whom words are a regular part of our existence (and that’s pretty much everyone), we will, as the verse says, eat the fruit of them. Either you speak encouraging, kind, loving words that result in good fruit, or you speak rotten words and end up with… well, you get the point.

I by no means am encouraging anyone to ignore the negative personality traits or poor behaviors of our children. We are obviously to respond to our children’s sins, errors, and weaknesses with discipline and instruction in order that they may become loving, compassionate, responsible adults.
I am, however, advocating for the way that we speak about the children in our lives, especially regarding labels we put on them sometimes before they are even born. By doing this, we are assigning negative characteristics to our children, giving them labels that they possibly may never be able to shed.

(This concept has been on my heart for a while. The more I looked into it, I learned it wasn’t just a personal opinion or a Biblical concept, it’s a psychological theory as well. If you want to learn more, look up “Labeling Theory,” or “Frank Tannenbaum.”)

You may be more familiar with this verse:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
{Ephesians 4:29}

It applies to the speech of our daily lives, but I think this verse is relevant to this specific topic of how we speak to our children as well. (Why should our words towards them be of any exception?)
Let’s not speak words that corrupt and tear down, but words that build up and encourage. Whether or not your baby or unborn child understands what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter.

Words have power.

Have you ever noticed that how we speak about people affects how we think about them?
And how we think about someone affects how we feel about them.
How we feel about someone affects how we behave towards them.
And furthermore, how we speak about, feel, or behave towards our children lays a foundation that affects how we judge and interpret their future actions.

For example, if you think someone is a liar, you will feel untrusting towards them, and doubt their words – even when they are telling the truth. If you think someone is selfish, you will judge all their actions through that lens, even if they aren’t always acting out of selfishness. We all have lenses through which we view people. Some of our lenses are more accurate than others. Sometimes our blurry lenses cause us to judge others more harshly or see them and interpret their actions through our predetermined notions instead of what is right and true.
Wouldn’t you rather your lens be clear to see your child as he or she is, and not as you’ve labeled them?

Even if your unborn child can’t yet understand the muffled sound of your voice…
Even if my little baby hasn’t mastered language enough to know what I’m saying about her…
Or even if a child can fully comprehend every word that is said…

Words matter.
Because there is power in words.
There is life and death in words.

So let’s SPEAK LIFE over our children.
Let us not label and place them in small, negative boxes with arbitrary personality characteristics that we conjured in our imaginations. Babies don’t have the capacity in the womb to be stubborn. Or dramatic. And if they’re annoying to us, it’s not because they woke up in a sea of amniotic fluid one day and decided to start kicking us in the ribs to get on our nerves… it’s because our perspective is off so that we’ve allowed their actions in utero to become annoying to us instead of a joyous and miraculous gift (that just so happens to be uncomfortable).

Let the first words your children hear about themselves be words that will encourage, inspire, and comfort them.
Tell your children you’re proud of them.

Build an intentional culture of security & safety in your home by choosing your words with care. Let your words be filled with love, admiration, and your gratitude for the gift your children are to you.
And may the words you speak about your children go out ahead of them into the world, preceding them in order that others will see the best in them and also expect great things from them.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
{Philippians 4:8}

Think about these lovely things regarding your children.
And then speak them.
Prophesy over your children with your words.
Spiritually speaking, the words we say aloud carry weight. The words we come into agreement with take root and manifest in our lives.

So prophesy over your child with the words you want to see manifested.
Tell them the most important words about themselves – who Jesus says they are – precious, loved, and chosen.

If it’s true that our words have the power to influence the way we think about our children, or the way our children think of themselves…
what words will we choose to say today?

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