The power of words

Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

By Nathan Rice

I turned my heads toward the sound of Jackson’s voice when I heard his distressed voice calling out, “Pastor Nathan!” Jackson was marching towards me with an angry and upset look on his face as he said, “Johnny called me a diaper-head!” Johnny, who wasn’t too far behind Jackson, picked up his pace as he headed towards me. He quickly chimed in with a rebuttal of, “You called me a poopy-face!”

They were about to begin the stereotypical childhood argument of “Did so!” “Did not!” when I put an end to their quarrel. I took a moment to remind them that we are not allowed to call each other names, and we talked about how we should only say things that help others and not say things that can hurt people.

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Children calling each other names is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. Visit any place where children gather, and you’ll most likely hear some type of name-calling. We should all try to teach children how to speak to others, but it will always be an ongoing effort.

We should help children learn the power of their words. Adults know, even if many don’t act like it, that our words carry great power with them. We understand that the words we say impact others. Sometimes, though, we fail to teach this to our children. It’s good to tell them not to call other people names and to correct them when they do so, but we should try to help them understand the reason it is wrong. This begins by helping them understand that words are as powerful as any weapon and can hurt or help. We need to have this conversation with our children, and we’ll probably need to have it more than once.

We should also be teaching children that every person has value. All people have an intrinsic worth, and we ignore this value when we put down others. I remind kids that anytime they make fun of someone or call someone a name, they are talking about someone that God created and loves. We must be training our children to see value in every individual.

Next, we must ensure that we are setting the example in how we speak to others and about others. We’re hypocrites if we tell our children not to call other kids names, but we put others down or call them names. Children will notice how we speak to and about others, including the cashier who messed up our order or the driver who cut us off. We may not call someone a “poopy-face,” but using grown-up insults doesn’t make it any better. Children will notice our behavior, and the greatest lesson we will teach on how to speak to others will come from the words they hear us using as we interact with others.

I know name-calling will never fully go away. Kids will be kids, but adults should be working to teach children why name-calling is wrong. If we all work together and practice what we preach, perhaps we can make the playground, and our world, a little bit nicer of a place to live.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at