Cultivating a Postive Family Atmosphere: Words

{Just found out and wanted to celebrate a little: After the Snow Falls is at its
highest ranking ever on Amazon since release!}

I wrote a post some time ago on the theme of cultivating a positive family atmosphere. The thought has stayed with me as I watch our kids interact.

I guess I’m more aware of it now that we’re here because of how we’re watched. Everywhere we go, people are fascinated by our three kids.

cultivate a positive atmosphere

They do stand out a little in the crowd here, but it’s more than that. With the one-child policy in effect now since 1978, it’s only the older people we meet who know the reality have having more than one child in the home. Sometimes they will approach us and ask perhaps the most common question we hear, “Are they all yours?” This makes us chuckle a little because of course, in North America, we’re used to hearing that applied to families with five or more, but it’s kind of sad too.

If it’s an older person asking me, I’ll often ask them in return, how many children they have. In response, they’ll often smile and hold up four or five fingers.

Sometimes people ask another question: Do they argue? (That’s if it isn’t already obvious by looking at them.)

But it’s funny to me that minds rush toward the negatives of sibling togetherness. What about the friendship? Because of our circumstances, our children have become each other’s best friends, and that’s something I love to see. As we were out shopping for furniture yesterday–certainly not any child’s first choice for an outing– our girls kept each other entertained by telling little stories to each other and walking hand-in-hand. In the end, they had a fun afternoon after all.

But keeping a positive family environment is something we do intentionally. Something we work on. And JavaMan and I have been thinking more and more about what we’re doing right–and what needs more attention.

One area we’re working on intentionally with our children is words. We used to tell our children to use “encouraging words.” We want to build each other up–not tear each other down (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

This was helpful instruction, and immediately curbs a negative attitude, name-calling, or even just a comment that isn’t wholly, uh, helpful.

Not long ago, we visited my sister-in-law’s family, and I heard her make a similar reminder to her son. But she called wholesome words, “Words of Life.”

I like that.

I immediately adopted her designation for positive speech. It’s not just semantics. She’s right. Words have power. They bring life or death:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who eat it will love its fruits. Proverbs 18:21

And remembering the power our words have is an important lesson for children to learn.

Lately, we’ve ramped it up a bit. There are a few negative attitudes brewing under the surface. We’ve talked to our kids about culture shock, and how this affects our attitudes, and how those attitudes are appropriately expressed, but let’s just say there’s a certain overflow that isn’t always curbed.

We’ve adopted another little phrase in the family. In the words of Thumper:

Not philosophical enough for you? Well, there is another source for this admonition. In the words of scripture, it goes something like this:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

It’s just a little easier to say the way Thumper said it, don’t you think?

- Carey Clark

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