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Unintended Messages

We all know the importance of being careful what we say around our kids and grandkids, not to mention each other. One of the most frequent messages I give my grandchildren is “Keep your hands off my walls”. I’m adament about it. I can’t afford to have the walls repainted and kids just naturally have a way of wiping their hands along the wall. I’m too old and too tired to take on painting the walls again so I send a consistent and strong message – “Keep your hands off my walls”. They get the point, both because of the way I say it and the frequency with which I say it. For the most part they are pretty good at keeping hands off the walls in my house.

The other day I had Cooper and Trevor in the car with me as I pulled into the parking lot in a small shopping center and told them to wait for just a minute as I had to go get something from the hardware store. I was in the store only a quick minute and emerged with a can of black spray paint designed for grills. The grill needed cleaning and repainting and I figured it would pay me to have the paint on hand when I was done scraping the old paint off. When I got back in the car Cooper (age 3) mumbled something to me which I couldn’t understand. I did get “Brookie…” and then whatever followed wasn’t discernable, at least to my old ears. I asked Trevor what Coop was saying and Trevor (being so helpful and such a good spirit) asked Cooper “what did you say?”. As only a little brother could say, Coop looked Trevor right in the eye and said “I’m talking to Pop – not you”. So much for Trevor’s goodwill. I scolded Cooper mildly and let him know that Trevor was trying to help me understand what he was saying. Coop repeated himself a few more times and we finally figured it out. He was saying “Brookie put her hands on the wall?” I laughed out loud as I put all the pieces together. Cooper, seeing me with a can of paint and having heard me say a hundred times “Keep your hands off my walls” put two and two together and figured someone had messed up the walls and since he NEVER puts his hands on the walls (yeah, right) it must be Brooke – well anyone other than him and Brooke seemed a likely candidate in his eyes.

Our words plant themselves in our children’s minds and hearts and the message “plus some” takes root. The seeds that grow are pretty much determined by the words we speak. Do you speak words of judgment or of grace, love or hate, beauty or ugly for people to hear? Two plus two is four and in a three year olds eyes a can of paint in my hands must mean I had to repaint the walls that are so precious to me. I guess we all better make sure our words are worthy of what is in our hearts and that when people put our words and actions together they get the right message. You never when two plus two might equal five in a three year olds mind.

Dr Chance