“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21, NKJV).”
Have you ever said words out of anger to a student or your child that demeaned or degraded them? Have you ever given words of encouragement to a child, teenager, or young adult that motivated them to accomplish something they thought was impossible?
Do you know the power that our words can have in our students or childrens lives? As the wisdom from scripture declares, our words have the power to bring “life or death”, “blessings or curses” into the core of a student’s life. How we control the power of our tongue can greatly impact the success of our students and kids as they mature into adults.
How can words bring the power of life or death to a fragile child? As I began meditating on the above scripture, the analogy of planting, seedtime, and harvest began to unfold, helping me understand the power of our words.
Imagine our words as seeds. A seed when it first is planted needs the proper environment to grow and produce fruit, such as sunlight, water, etc…Over a period of time, if given the correct environment in which to grow, that seed begin to break through the soil as a seedling, then eventually sprouts and produces fruit during harvest time. The interesting part of the process is that it produces fruit after its own kind. An apple seed will produce apples, not oranges or grapes. That will go against the law of sowing and reaping to have it any other way.
Now let’s imagine that seed is our words. Let’s say we tell a student or your child that they are smart and have the potential to do whatever they want to in life. Those words are seeds planted into that child’s life. If they are in an environment that nurtures and protects them from the weeds of life and bad elements, eventually that word will grow roots. A harvest of positive fruit will be produced in due season.
Conversely, if the words planted into a student’s life are “you’re dumb, you’re ugly, you will never get anything right, and you’re worthless,” those seeds take root as well and grow in that environment. Then, one day it will produce negative fruits when the harvest is ripe.
Whether the fruit is good or bad, the cycle continues for generations to come because we reproduce after our own kind. So, the questions become, first, what type of seeds have been sown in us as teachers, home educators, parents, and care takers when we were growing up? Second, what kind of seeds are we sowing into our students, children, and the next generation of leaders?
I didn’t write this to pass judgment on anyone. I have asked myself these same questions and continue to evaluate where I am at constantly. I have spoken words of life to students, but I have also flippantly used the power of my tongue to say some not so kind words to them as well. We don’t always get it 100% right. However, we can work on having our words make consistent deposits into a child’s love bank rather than debits that put us in the negative and harm or stunt their growth.
So how do we speak words of life to our students and children? Here are a few suggestions: First, find something tangible and specific everyday in which you can praise a child. “But this child drives me nuts. That will be impossible to do,” you may be thinking. I’m not saying it will be easy, but if we listen well, we can find something of value in any child. I heard it said that God gave us 2 ears and one mouth, so we can listen more than we talk. In that active listening some of those pearls in a child will appear.
Second, use the 3-1 rule. In the classroom or at home, try to give 3 positives for every negative. In essence, this gets us in the practice of speaking more life than death into our students and kids. This keeps the deposits in their love banks greater than the debits.
Third, use the “catch a kid being good” principle with your students and children. This is when you randomly praise a child in public in front of their peers or alone for doing something good. This works especially effective with those students or kids that don’t often get caught doing something “good.”
Finally, there will always be those times when we have to discipline our students and children. Be fair in the discipline and remember to let them know that they are being disciplined for their negative behavior and not for who they are as a person. When kids begin to feel that you are angry with them because they are bad and not because that they did something bad, this breeds a feeling of shame about who they are. When the consequence is complete, move on, don’t hold it against them, and let them know they are still loved and lovable.
Speaking life is so important in the life of our students and children. If we have spoken death into a child’s life or someone else has, we can ask for forgiveness and start the process of uprooting the bad seeds of words spoken and begin planting seeds of life.
And when we have difficulty speaking those words of life, ask for a little “Divine Intervention.” God can help us look straight past our students and childrens faults and straight to their needs. It is then that our words of life will provide nourishment and healing, driving away the death and curses.
If you liked this post, I would love your feedback. Please leave me a comment below and then join me on Social Media (Facebook & Twitter) as we continue this journey together. Thank-you.
Antoine McCoy is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher as an Exceptional Needs Specialist working with children with mild to moderate disabilities. He has taught children in all grade levels (K-12) in Public and Private Schools (general education, inclusion, and self-contained classes) and worked with homeschoolers.