Children and the Words They Hear

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Our daughters were in their first play about 1991. Our son’s first play experience was about five years later. Our younger daughter Mary Evelyn started the Homeschool Dramatic Society twenty years ago. All that, plus the hours our girls spent playing dress-up, means that I have a well-stocked costume cache.

Included are five or six formals from when I was in high school and college. Two of those turned out to be just what we needed for the upcoming HDS production. When I saw a young actress on stage yesterday morning wearing a dress I wore in college, I marveled at how slim I used to be. Trouble is, I had no idea I was slim.

The difference between the reality of how I looked and my perception of how I looked wasn’t anorexia or anything like that. It was simply a feeling of dissatisfaction.

When I was a girl, my grandmother went on one diet after another. I remember thinking that I was slim and didn’t need to diet. Then came my majorette days in high school. One day my band director told me that I should wear a girdle (we call it shapewear now) because of my tummy. I did what she told me.

Yes, I really did go out in public like this! We made our tiaras from pipe cleaners and sequins.

Yesterday for the first time, I put the two together — how I felt about myself when Mama Sue was dieting and The Event with my band director.

My heart breaks when I hear an adult criticize a child. Gentle, constructive correction is one thing. Criticism is another matter. We have to be so careful about what we say to our children. We have to be aware of what others say to them, as well. That is one more way that homeschoolers have an advantage. We have the opportunity to know so much more of what our children are hearing.

I actually thought the world of my band director. I know she didn’t mean to criticize. She wanted her majorette team to look a certain way. There was no ill intent. Perhaps my close relationship with her made her words have even more of an impact, since I really did want to please her.

Criticism or not, I think those few words were probably a turning point in how I saw my body. As you think about how to protect and build up your own children, remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,
but only such a word as is good for edification
according to the need of the moment,
so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

If you live close to Cookeville, Tennessee, we would love to see you this weekend when the Homeschool Dramatic Society presents Sign of Love at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center. Be sure and call for tickets so you don’t miss out. Here’s an invitation.


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