01 June 2011

Something I enjoy about keeping a blog is the community of friends that comes with it. I love the sharing of ideas, the growth we see in ourselves as parents, and the encouragement to seek the Lord in all things. I get to connect with people with different ideas, different skills, and different points of view. I know that we don't always agree on all things, but I love that that doesn't get in the way of us enjoying a good laugh or encouraging one another in our walks.

I also appreciate the new information that many of y'all have brought to my attention over the years. You have gently and graciously enlightened me about car seat safety, how to handle dishonesty in children, how to kickstart labor, appropriate levels of fat content in baby yogurt, baby girl names and a million other things.

If I were a superstitious person I feel like I might should be knocking on wood right now, but I'm not so I won't. I'm grateful for the healthy and safe exchange of ideas that has taken place over the years and, I believe, has left us all a little wiser. Y'all have been so sweet.

Thank you for enjoying my quirks, respectfully sharing your opinions, and ultimately respecting the role God has entrusted to only me and Ryan as the parents of our children.

That said, funny story:

(Yes, that was a very long way of getting around to a story about being a parent.) :)

Just last week we stopped in at my sister's house to enjoy dinner together with her family and to give the kids time to play all together. Fun times.

When it was time for us to leave, Ryan and I started rounding up our two babes and gathering our things from where they had been scattered into the far corners of Rebecca's house. (Really not sure how that manages to happen in such a short time.)

As I was helping Oliver find his shoes he asked a question that he very much knew the answer to. "What are we doing when we get home?"

Honestly, he knew the answer. And I knew that if I told him what he expected to hear, tears would ensue. Still, "It's bedtime, babe. It's late!"

"Awwwww! I HATE bedtime!"

Pause. (A bit of background: there are some words in our house that we just do not abide. We don't let Oliver say "hate" or that he's "starving" and a few other things - in our opinion, these words are too strong for a child his age.)

Protests I can handle. But that there was more than a protest. Oliver knows he's not allowed to say "hate", and he rarely employs it - only when he really wants to zing his Mama or Papa. That was disobedience.

By this time Ryan was tying Oliver's tennis shoes and I absolutely loved his calm response to his son's outburst: "Alright, Oliver. If you hate bedtime, then you will not get to go to bed. When you get home and Mom tucks Hazel into bed (Ryan was planning to run home from Rebecca's house that night while I drove the kids home), you have to stand on your rug in the middle of the room. You may not get into bed. You have to stay standing until I get home."

That Ryan, he's a quick one. This is perhaps why Ryan makes a living by coming up with creative ideas all day long.

You can imagine Oliver's distress at his punishment. He knew he deserved it, but he wasn't looking forward to it.

As we headed out the door my sister whispered a few wise words in my ear and I listened closely as I planned to relay them to my firstborn on the drive home.

As we pulled out the driveway I asked my baby boy, "Sweetie, are you allowed to use knives?"


"Why not?"

"Because they could cut you."

"Exactly. But, are Mommy and Daddy allowed to use knives?"


"You're right. We know how to use knives as tools. We use them safely and at the right times. Do you know that words are kind of like knives? Especially words like 'hate'."


"Because they're tools. They have a job to do, but they have to be used wisely and carefully. The word 'hate' is too big and dangerous of a tool for kids to use. It's true that Mommy and Daddy do sometimes say 'hate'. But we know how to use that word, babe. We know how to keep from hurting people with that word. But kids don't always know how to use it. And they sometimes use it in a wrong way and can really hurt people. Babe, you're too little to use that word."

"I'm not too little!"

"Oliver, you are. You're too little for a lot of things and that's okay. You're too little to cross the street or drive a car or swim in the pool without an adult. You're also big enough to do a lot of things, but there are some things that you just need to wait for. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes. I'm not allowed to say 'knife'."


By now we are pulling into the driveway and what I felt like what was a very clear and productive conversation had just made a crash landing into potential nothingness.

I gathered up my babies and all of their accouterments and headed inside. I started in on Hazel's diaper and asked Oliver to get out pajamas for both of them. And the dread of the standing time began to set in. And so did the remorse for his disobedience.

I tucked Hazel into her crib (have I ever mentioned that she is the easiest bedtime kid ever?) and she laid there and watched as a now pajama-clad Oliver took his post on the blue rug while I folded and put away clothes in their room.

I knew Ryan would only be another ten minutes or so, so as I folded and Oliver's knees almost fell off (according to him - amazing how they can run and play all day long, but when it's a punishment they can't possibly stand up another second) we chatted a little more about words.

I told him that adults usually use words properly, but even adults can use words - and knives - unsafely too. Mommies and Daddies have to be careful how we use our words. We have to be sure to use them to be kind and loving and not hurtful. Words are a big responsibility.

Revisiting the words-as-powerful-tools conversation with him while he stood next to his bed seemed to shed new light on the concept.

By the time Ryan arrived home I think Oliver had learned two things:
1. Some words are too big for little people to use safely.
2. He changed his mind- he really does LOVE bedtime after all. :)

And that night, a very sweet, sleepy little boy was relieved to finally crawl into his bed, kiss his Mommy and Daddy goodnight, and fall quickly asleep.

And, he hasn't tested the word water since. {Of course, it's only been a week...}

Love that boy so much.

How have y'all handled language issues with your children?


keight dukes said...

LOVE it. the consequence idea, the knife analogy, oliver's knees falling off and his not being able to say knife anymore. we just have one 2 year old parrot in our house right now, so the language issue is OURS more than his. and that means it's mine mostly. i am captain exaggeration, "i am so tired i want to die," "i'm going to kill that dude," "i am going to throw up," and so on. besides giving him bad things to copy, this also teaches him that he cant trust exactly what his mom says all the time and needs to filter some of it out or ignore some of it as bluster. it's scary to think that i am neutering the power of words i really want him to hear by overdoing the strength of the words i use when it doesnt matter so much. thanks for the reminder. also, how dare you use knives in a house than contains children!

Monica said...

I think you handled that with patience and grace. The punishment also made him appreciate what he "hated". We can be so hard on ourselves and others for parenting decisions. Even though I have three I still feel like I learn something new everyday. Kids are pretty good at throwing curve balls at us! ha!

Heather said...

Hi! I have 6 yr old twin boys and have struggled lately with ways to teach them about the power of thier words ... I see a knife story in our future :)

Your blog has been an everyday read for me for some time now although I've never left a comment before. Thank you for sharing this story!

Anonymous said...

I love that SO much! We also don't allow kids to use 'strong' words in our house (hate, whatever, starving, bored) so this analogy is wonderful!

Debra Joy @ jubilee life said...

Thanks for sharing that endearing story. It's really helpful and encouraging to hear [detailed] stories of parenting done well, because I know I need inspiration for how to wisely and gracefully handle situations like this. And, I appreciate Keight's comment because not too long ago, I too said "I want to die!" - probably about getting up in the morning or something similarly inane - and my husband had to gently reprimand me about not letting my almost-3 year old hearing me say things like that. :/ It's true; words are like knives.

Beth said...

Absolutely love this. Tucking it away for what are sure to be future conversations for us. Thanks for always encouraging and sharing, and ultimately pointing to the Lord!

Jen said...

I have handled words many different ways in the past, but know for sure of one way I will handle it in the future!!! Awesome job :) PS. I love the natural consequence for the words he chose :)

Emily said...

We try to also reiterate that God wants us to always speak lovingly and with kindness... even about bedtime. We also validate the "hate" or dislike that they are feeling but then logically explain why God made bedtime and that it is a time for our bodies to get energy for playing the next day.
He made us to do perfectly what we are supposed to do... glorify him and go to sleep when we are supposed to.:)

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. THIS is how I so often strive to parent...but fail. Often. I'm saving this to read again and again so I can explain it to my 4 year old. (who carries play food knives as swords to fight dragons and mean dinosaurs, but NEVER people or animals)

Paulina said...

Hi I agree with you about blog world it is amazing how much I have learned in the short time I've been a part of it.
I don't have kids yet but this is a great reminder of the power of words (I do say things that I don't think would be ok for any kid to hear or repeat) I should start practicing so it becomes a habit before I have babies. Thank you for the parenting example (you guys handled it beautifully!). Thanks for sharing!

kristin noel said...

First, what a clever way of teaching the importance of words and language. Definitely storing this idea in my bag of tricks!

While I haven't yet had the honor of teaching such lessons, I do remember coming home from 1st grade and repeating a swear word I had learned from another child. I knew it was naughty, but not why. My wise Daddy sat me down and instead of lecturing me he took the dictionary and taught me ALL of the swear words and their meanings. It totally deflated the fun and when I child would swear I would him/her what it meant. Swearing quickly went out of vogue in my 1st grade classroom.

Great job handling a potentially tough parenting situation. I hope one day I have enough guts to confront these things head on!

Kristi said...

I LOVE that knife analogy. I will most definitely be using that one with my kids.
Thank you for sharing that experience and the tip, and thanks to your sister for the words of wisdom she inspired.

Linda said...

I love that you don't let him say those words. They might be words that are used without care in some families but I don't like when children use them carelessly. (Whether it's "hate" or "stupid" or "starving") and I sometimes have a hard time making sure they understand that it is not okay when other children use them without even thinking that this might be a bad word. (Even teachers use them... ugh!!)
Anyway... loved the way Oliver learned this lesson! Very cute!!

Ashley said...

Love the analogy. Bravo to you and Ryan. I wish I had advice, but we haven't quite gotten to the "power of words" conversation with my two year old (even though she does have a vocabulary that blows me away!)... we are kind of still at the point where we are trying to filter words and phrases that aren't necessarily "bad" (crap, oh my gosh, stupid, shut up) but they are definitely things we don't want our two year old saying. She's also starting in with the "why?" and "why not?" and I'm having to come up with clever ways to help her two year old brain process more complex things.

I also love how Oliver answered you by saying "I'm not allowed to say knife." Surely frustrating for you, but hilarious for us (and hopefully to you now too)! :)

I just have to say, too... I think it's wonderful that you are able to humble yourself and ask for advice. I greatly admire you, your blog, and your creations. It's nice to know once in awhile that people I admire (and seem to have it much more together than I do) are still human, too. :)

Rachel C said...

First of all, Ryan's consequence for Oliver is fantastic! What a clever idea! I will have to remember that one! And the chat about knives and comparing them to words is good too! We haven't had a big problem with words...yet!

Sarah-Anne said...

no help in the parenting dept. but i have to say ya'll are the most clever parents EVAH. i'll have to keep the bedtime consequence & the knives reference filed away for a later date... ;)

Claire said...

What a wonderful way to explain that concept to a child! I'm going to have to remember that! Thank you!

Sara @ Mom Endeavors said...

I rarely comment (sorry, I know). But, this is one of my FAVORITE posts yet (yes, even without adorable pictures)!!!
The consequence and conversation were brilliant and the "I'm not allowed to say knife" comment is priceless! :)

Rebecca said...

I found the knives/words analogy in a book called "Loving the Little Years-Motherhood in the Trenches." by Rachel Jankovic.


Laura W. Smith said...

Thanks so much for sharing this story. I really appreciate it and also have three sweet little ones who are just discovering words that wound. I will be using the knife analogy for sure!

Cecilia said...

My little one doesn't talk yet, but I will have to remember this lesson. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of how you do things!

Nancy said...

Excellent with the knife analogy! I may be pulling that one out...

It's amazing how many inappropriate/difficult words and phrases can come up, esp. with school. We've been struggling with how to allow our 6-year-old to have valid feelings of sadness, anger or frustration or even inadequacy/depression, but not express them in destructive or hurtful ways. My husband's family struggles with depression, not diagnosed or dealt with until adulthood, and we want to be aware so that maybe the next generation won't suffer as long.

Andrea said...

This was such a timely post. I read it this morning which followed on the heels of a complete overreaction on my part to my oldest son "decorating" his room with crayon - all four walls, the floor and carpet. I was so grateful (and humbled) by my husband's response, which was to ask my son to recreate his entire portfolio of drawings on a piece of paper before he scrubbed his room clean (the cleaning was my part of the consequence :) ). So when I read your post this morning and how you both handled the situation in such a Christ-like manner, it spoke to the desire in my heart to bring about correction that will grow good fruit in our children.

I'll have to keep the "knives" analogy tucked away in my brain for the next time my children use and "adult only" word.

Kameron said...

Doesn't it get to you when you think you are using a perfectly age appropriate analogy and it is lost on them?? What is even funnier is I almost said, "Don't you "hate" it when.... It is hard to teach them context and the fact that we might use something in passing that is not ok for them to say. I have a big issue with my son saying he is starving and I try not to say it either. I hope the lesson got through and i might have to use that one when this conversation comes up in my house!

Christine said...

Oh, lord, I just laughed so hard my chest hurt a little. And I think you guys handled it brilliantly. Giving him that good, one-on-one attention while also correcting him was good and meaningful and insightful. (In our home, punishments/corrections tend to be swift and decisive. There's just too much going on for lots of long, good hashings-it-out. And while our kids are happy and adjusted, from time to time I find myself wishing I could give a little more attention to certain issues without so many other littles pulling on my knees and just needing NEEDING my attention. And sometimes I make it happen--just not often enough for me.)

Love you and your kiddos! Oliver is growing up into such a young man. A young man of integrity, I must add.

cryno! cryno, I say!

Myah said...

I like this... but the part I like best is how your sister whispered wisdom in your ear as you walked out the door. So sweet and special.

nic said...

loved both the wisdom and love in this post. you and ryan rock at this parenting gig.

Jessi said...

I love the idea of limiting the strong words my children use. Can I ask what other strong words are on your do not say list?

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree (respectfully) with that parenting technique. I have 3 children, when one of my three children say, "I HATE bedtime." We would say, "Yes - it is disappointing to have to go to bed after such a fun day isn't it? But aren't we lucky to have such a nice cozy bed where we can snuggle and read books and pray? I can't wait to get into my jammies and read and think about this wonderful day and they wonderful day that is coming up tomorrow!" They agree with me. We think it is very important to allow children to share their thoughts and ideas and teach them how to verbalize them. If they said, I HATE MY FRIEND. We would say, I don't think you hate your friend I believe you are angry at your friend and I understand that, but I know you care about them and want to be friends. Let's go talk to them and figure this out. I think making a child stand on a mat just shows them that big=power.That being said I think you are most likely very good and loving parents who just do some things differently than me :)

I have to sign this anoymous because I don't have a google account :)