When my child was born, I realized pretty quickly that there were words I used thoughtlessly that needed some redefinition. When they would toddle around and bump their head, I’d try to distract them, to get them to stop crying, by picking them up and tossing them in the air while telling them that they were “tough”. At the same time, I was working with young teens in campus ministry and I’d find myself frustrated with how little they empathized with others. Then it hit me—maybe a key to empathy is being comfortable with your own feelings. If so, defining “tough” as “non-emotional” isn’t the best strategy for raising a healthy adult.
Sometimes words carry cultural baggage that creates barriers, making it difficult for kids to understand what it means to live well. Redefining words is a critical skill for parents. In fact, redefining words helps our kids see the world more clearly. Here are 3 words we need to redefine for our children.
Our sons often think being tough means having muscles (idealized by people like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and the ability to win in a fight. But the most challenging things we face in life aren’t bested by physical strength. The biggest challenges are only brought down by the strongest character.
Redefining tough: Perseverance and vulnerability through difficult times. This strength isn’t acquired in a gym, but as we do the hard work of pushing through adversity and asking for help when we need it.
Our children often think love is something you experience with a person you’re attracted to. This involves hugging, kissing, and hand-holding.
Redefining love: Putting the needs of another ahead of your own. Serving others out of a desire for them to flourish. This has nothing to do with your level of physical attraction to someone.
Our children often think beauty is associated with our body shape and physical appearance. This is, of course, very narrowly defined.
Redefining beauty: The moral character and quality of a person. Of course, we don’t want to pretend like our kids won’t find particular people more physically attractive than others. But we want to cultivate a value for something much deeper than physical appearance.
If we are intentional about redefining words for our children, we can help them better understand the true meaning of these words as they grow up into well-rounded adults. If you’d like to read the full article we reference from AllProDad.com, you can click here!