Vocabulary Words – Big Deal Behavior (7 of 8)


Lucy, age 4

“Now, I expect your assimilation concerning my regulatory statutes, and that you understand their pertinence according to what we have deemed acceptable in any singular situation.”

(For child’s response see picture above.)

We often think about adjusting our vocabulary for the sake of a child that doesn’t understand all the words we may use as adults.  However, I want to caution you from changing the concept of what the child really needs to hear from you in the process.

The way you use words is important, especially words spoken with sincerity, but don’t devalue the sincerity when/if you choose to change the vocabulary that you use.  Remember the way you say things communicates more than Webster’s definition.

Now, you may say my child’s vocabulary isn’t developed yet so they won’t know what the words mean (“…and I don’t even know what “edify” means, which illustrates my objection…!”) The words you use, can build up (which is what edify means), or tear down. The hard part is there are more words, in common language, that can tear down than there are that build up so we must be intentional.  …and yes, there is a reason I’m ‘making a big deal’ about vocabulary.

Think about it this way, you don’t ever think twice about telling a 16-month-old baby girl that she is pretty, and you can see it in her face that she understands. It works with boys too. Words like honor, courage, respect, and maturity are words that seem to soak in through the skin, even without a complete understanding of what the definitions of these words say.

Photo by Aaron Burden

I have had many conversations with youth leaders, teachers, and parents who “talk down” to the kids, or use the term “dumb-it-down” when they are teaching certain material. As much as kids are captured by colors and sounds, because of developing mental expression, don’t miss that kids are smart!!! In fact, arguably smarter than you, from an interval of learning standpoint. In a traditional relationship with, healthy people on both, sides the only difference between your intelligence level and your child’s, is experience and vocabulary! Don’t talk down to them, just talk to them.

You don’t have to be someone you’re not to do this, right now.

Laying this foundation is huge when they are toddlers, but it becomes important as they get into the elementary years, and vital as they become “Tweeners.”  The way you say your words will not only convey the message you are intending, but it will teach them vocabulary too.  It will take the focus off of your relationship and put it on their behavior where it belongs.

When you speak of seeking to honor and respect your son, but his behavior is the problem, your relationship maintains its integrity and doesn’t become the issue. Tell them what you are seeking in them (honor/respect/maturity), and how their behavior seems to be getting in the way of that and then ask them if they can explain why that might be? and ask them, how do we fix this?

These tools are valuable, because your child(ren) will make mistakes! This is the reason why God gave them parents, and specifically why God gave them you!

The apostle Paul reminds us of a truth that works for your children, as well as your contemporaries:

Romans 15:1-2, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (*edify him 😉 )

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