My mother was famous for her many sayings – well at least famous to me and my sister, who heard them all incessantly over the years. Some of the more memorable ones were:
“A word to the wise is sufficient” which I seriously always thought had something to do with fish
“Waste not, want not” which became a life philosophy of recycling, upcycling, and becoming a packrat (but to another child perhaps becoming a hoarder)
“There’s a place for everything and everything in its place” which had a positive organizing effect
“Children should be seen and not heard” which was sadly followed and spoken every time I tried to say something when the adults were talking
“I’ll send you to the moon eating your own teeth” which I never got and still don’t get today
“I’ll break off your arm and hit you with a bloody end of it” which is rather gruesome when pictured, although I never really thought of the words visually…
While these trite expressions may come across as even laughable today, they landed with great effect yesterday. I long remember hearing these words over and over again – how can they not become ingrained? Along with the words, the meanings also ingrain at a subconscious level.
Usually parents who don’t know any differently do not say things like the above to purposefully inflict pain and are truly unaware of the damage that their words can cause, especially when the words are negative and then are repeated over years.
I think my mother thought she was being clever and she had a decent vocabulary which was largely wasted on toddlers. She never explained the meaning of different words, instead telling us to look up any word we asked about in the dictionary (pretty hard to do when you’re too young to be able to spell “sufficient”).
Some expressions that are passed down are obviously positive,
“Work hard and you will get everything that you deserve”
“When life knocks you down, pick yourself up and get right back in”
“You can be anything that you want to be”
Perhaps you can remember some frequent expressions of your own mother, father, or grandparent. Consider the effects those expressions may have had on you as you heard them in the developmental years. What are you saying now to your own children – some of those same expressions?
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: Our words are very powerful influencers to our impressionable children while we are raising them. Sometimes the child doesn’t understand what we are saying because of their limited vocabularies, and they don’t always ask, so the meaning is lost. Clichés repeated over many years can have an overt or subconscious impact which an aware parent recognizes and tries to keep positive, not negative.