If You’re a Parent, Watch Your Mouth

Tim Ebl

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Words shoot like arrows into your kid’s hearts.

Photo / Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock

My brother-in-law said something that maybe killed a kid. It happened at Thanksgiving in front of 10 children from 3 families. One sentence lodged in all their brains, and 14 years later, one of those children is no longer with us.

It was rare that we would all get together like that. Like many, we didn’t get along that well. But my wife loves her parents and thinks family is worth it, so we made the 500-mile journey of hell with three kids and two dogs to get to that dinner.

The in-law’s house was packed. All the children and grandchildren under one roof; 8 adults and 10 kids were mixing it up.

The pooches got sent to the garage. Between us, we had 5 dogs, and letting them in the main living area would have been more pandemonium than we could take.

After the food was served and everyone got a little quieter to eat, the adult conversation came around to a dangerous subject. What if your kid came out as gay?

My Brother-in-law Dropped the Bomb

Everyone was sitting in the dining room/living room combo area. An adult table and a kid’s table covered with dishes and food. My brother-in-law’s voice is deep and loud, so we all heard what he said next.

“If one of my kids is gay, he’s not my son anymore. I don’t care. He’s out.”

The room was silent. His four boys were looking at the main table with blank expressions on their faces. All of our children waited.

Finally, my father-in-law answered him.

“It’s not that simple. You can’t stop loving your kids no matter what they do or who they are.”

“Nope. This isn’t up to debate. If one of my sons goes homo, I’m disowning him. End of story. No one is gay in my family.”

There was a bit of an argument after this, but the damage was done. It stuck in our heads like Gorilla Glue. I know it went straight into the subconscious minds of not only his four boys but my two sons and the four girls there that day.

Be a straight boy or get disowned. Don’t come out of that closet. If you’re not like dad, you’re unlovable, some sort of freak.

If You’re a Parent, Your Words Hit Home

Mothers and fathers are the main sources of information for the growing minds of their kids. They’re like the programmer writing code. What kind of operating system are you giving them?

Start with the program your parent gave you. It’s flawed because they’re human, so there are bugs built-in unless you go over it and change it up.

Throw in some garbage off the TV, pop culture, and YouTube, and do a bit of yelling. Who knows, maybe they’ll turn out okay. A lot of people grow up just fine with slop shoved into their souls as they grow.

I went through a negative programming course from hell when I was little. In my case, it made me struggle and work to overcome it, and I’m a better person for it.

Other kids aren’t so lucky.

Don’t Say These Things to Your Kid

If you say these words to your daughter or your son, they will get stuck in their noggin and change the way they think about themselves forever. Do you want to be responsible for loading their brains with any of these crappy word bombs? I hope not.

Things not to say:

  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Don’t eat that, or you’ll get fat.”
  • “Stop being so selfish and needy.”
  • “You’re an idiot.”
  • “You make me so mad.”
  • “We’ll never afford that.”

There are a lot more that belong on the “this is toxic” list. Avoid anything that makes them feel small or less. Choose something positive.

Say these Instead and Build Your Children Up

Think about how you could change the story. If you memorized a few of these and went out of your way to throw them in during the day, you would impact their lives for good.

Be honest. When it’s true, let them know how you feel. There are many missed opportunities to let our children see that we are proud of them and love them.

Things that pump your kid’s tires and boost them higher:

  • “How are you?”
  • “I’m proud of you.”
  • “You make me smile.”
  • “Mistakes happen.”
  • “I love you, and nothing will change that.”
  • “I’m always here for you.”
  • “That’s smart thinking.”
  • “I like you.”
  • “I like hanging out with you.”
  • “You need to be yourself.”

What You Say to Your Spouse, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, or Sibling Matters Too

Are you bitching at your wife in front of your kids? Don’t.

We need to lead by example. If you raise your kids to think that men can treat women poorly, then the outcome is what you would expect—more shitty behavior from more men.

Do you put your husband down in front of the baby? Don’t. Parents need to understand: What you do in front of your children matters so much! We can’t just let-er-buck, let all our souls' garbage hang out without passing it on to the next generation.

Do you want to give your kids all of your hangups, problems, and struggles? Or would you like to let them get a fresh start?

It’s best to never treat service people poorly in front of your toddler. If you show other humans respect in public, you won’t train them to think that displaying ugliness is the way it’s done. Don’t be harmful in front of them, instead be harmless.

Don’t insult, belittle, ridicule, shame, or make fun of anyone while your little ones observe and take notes! This stuff gets in their heads, and it’s not getting out. It just ping-pongs around in there until it comes out on someone else.

14 Years After Thanksgiving, One Of My Nephews Is Dead

My brother-in-law used to have four sons. Now he only has three. Did my wife’s brother pump those kids full of other soul-killing nuggets in private? I bet he did.

I think his son was in the closet and couldn’t come out. If he let anyone know who he really was, his dad would disown him forever. After all, it was announced in front of the whole family. He knew how his dad felt about gay men. Only macho men are allowed in this club.

That boy led a troubled and short life. Not long after he moved out on his own, he found a way to end it all. He isn’t here, and that's a tragedy.

No one knows what he was thinking at the end. But I know what his parents are thinking. They blame themselves. They feel responsible for how their children live their lives.

Takeaways

If you’re a parent, your words count.

We all slip up. Hey, no one’s perfect. Every word out of my mouth wasn’t verbal sunshine, especially when the kids were running around, making my life hard, breaking things, and pulling the dog’s ears. But I did my best.

That’s all we can do. Try to build them up more than you tear them down. Aim for more positive than negative. Look at how your parents did. Then pick a couple of things you feel they screwed up and do better.

Drop a few sunshine bombs on your kid’s day. Saying “I love spending time with you” or “That’s really smart, gimmie five!” will stick and make a difference.

What kind of parent do you want to be remembered as? Imagine your daughter or son is all grown up and thinking back to this time. See them saying that you were an inspiring, supportive role model who set them up for a happy and productive life. They remember you told them just the right things, and you always apologized when you screwed it up. They love you for how you treated them when they were small.

Now be that person. I believe in you.

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I'm an author, yoga enthusiast, and meditation instructor. I spend a lot of time outdoors with activities like running, hiking and camping. My writing is all about the humorous side of life and personal growth, habits ,mindfulness, and outdoor adventures.

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