A few months ago, I wrote this essay in which I called my kids “jerks.” Repeatedly.

I stand by the things I said there, but the word “jerk” bothered me, like a little itch in my brain for weeks after.

At first I assumed I was just feeling icky because of my own judgements about “the kind of person” who calls her kids names and the kind whose kids actually earn those names. I brushed that off, because “that kind of person” is, to some degree, every kind.

I wondered if I was being unkind to my kids, telling stories on them to The Interwebs. This is probably not the issue, given that I do it all the time. I mean, check out the #becausekatherine tag. It’s just post after post detailing why my secondborn is the most endearing crazy person I’ve ever met.

As I chewed on my discomfort with the post—with the word “jerk”—it finally hit me.

I’m pretty careful about the names I call my babies because words matter.

Words matter, perhaps to me more than most. I get excited about verbal precision… when I find exactly the right words for what I mean, it makes me disproportionately happy.

I am created in the image of the God who spoke creation into being.

I don’t believe my words have God-like magic powers. I don’t believe by “naming and claiming” I can make God give me what I want, but my words do matter.

They can bring life or crush the spirit.

They can pierce or bring healing.

They can cause great destruction.

They can bring sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Sometimes my kids behave awfully and would deserve being called a jerk (or worse). But since my words have the power of life and death, I choose to speak life, both to and about them. If I’m gonna call my kids names (which I do pretty regularly), they’re gonna be kind, or occasionally silly.

Lovely. Sweet One. Silly Head. Goofball. Smarty McSmarterson. Any one of a million variants—I’ll happily use anything. But I want to bless my babies. When I use my words about them, my hope is to build them up, not tear them down or limit them with labels.

Sometimes, Jenna says, “I hate that!” Whatever. Some kind of food, typically. I always tell her, “Please be more judicious with your use of the word ‘hate,’ baby.” This is more or less the same: I’m just trying to be judicious, because it all counts.

So… sometimes they are jerks, but you’re unlikely to catch me calling them such. I’m not above it or anything. Words are just too important to be used for that.


What are some ways you speak life to your babies?

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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