The words we choose in our interactions with children have the power to heal or to hurt, to create distance or foster closeness, to shut down feelings or touch the heart and open it, to foster dependency or to empower. For instance:
While shopping at a health food store, I heard a child crying. I followed the sound and found a girl, about four years old, lying on the floor crying and whining. No one seemed to be around her. I scanned the area quickly and a woman at the counter answered my unasked question: “I don’t know where her mother is. This boy seems to be her brother.”
The crying girl’s brother was about nine years old. He was standing by the shopping cart in the aisle. I sat down on the floor next to the crying girl and tried to guess why she was crying.
“Have you been waiting and waiting and waiting to get out of this store?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Do you want to go home already?”
“Yes,” she said, sobbing more fully now.
“This is taking so long, and Mom seems so slow,” I added.
“Yes,” came the answer. This time the girl looked at me with her big, tearful eyes.
“It’s hard to be in this boring store and wait so long,” I said.
Her brother then walked over to us and with an impatient gesture said, “Come on, Lizzie, get up now.”
I turned to the boy and said, “Are you tired of waiting for Mom, too?”
“Yes,” he said, and then he added, “especially when the best TV show is on.”
“Oh,” I said. “Are you missing your favorite TV show right now?”
“Yes,” said Lizzie, and then she told me about the show.
“What a bummer,” I validated. “When is this show going to be on again?”
“Tomorrow,” they said in unison. “It’s on every day,” added the boy.
“Are you afraid that you are not going to be able to figure out what you missed?” I asked, thinking they might be concerned about following the plot.
“Yes,” said Lizzie, while her brother nodded. Then Lizzie got up. I introduced myself. Lizzie gave me a warm hug. I said, “I’m so glad I met you.” She sank into my arms and I stood up holding her. She was calm. Then her brother moved closer and said, “I’m sure we’ll figure out what we missed on the show, Lizzie.” Lizzie smiled.
At that moment the children’s mother came over and thanked me for my help.
From Naomi Aldort’s Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (Book Publishers Network, 2006)