"The other day I heard a wealthy entrepreneur named Rich DeVos speak as part of a lecture series. He has started numerous businesses, given hundreds and hundreds of people jobs and opportunities to succeed. He is a philanthropist who enriched our city with museums, hospitals, schools, and more. He invests in people. He is a man of principle and strong Christian values.
I had never heard him speak. He’s over eighty now, and I thought he might give us some business principles for success. Instead he gave us phrases that help build the lives of other people. They are so simple to say and yet so hard to speak at the right time—which is just when people need a special word of encouragement. It was inspiring.
I thought of these posts I have been writing about responsible use of language to build relationships in our homes, to inspire our children, and increase their imagination. His words fit. As he spoke I thought of the phrase from an old song: Where never is heard a discouraging word….and smiled because this is the way I was parented as I grew up. Here are words from his list:
- Learn to say I was wrong. Being wrong is inevitable for human beings—even parents. Your marriage and family life will be stronger if you as parents demonstrate that you can admit this, hard as it is. Of course, it means nothing if it doesn’t come from the heart. Admitting we are wrong is the only way to truly heal the hurt we have caused others. It’s a good thing for our children to learn when they are found with their hand in the cookie jar.
- Along with saying I’m wrong!” we have to learn to say, “I’m sorry!” These are companion phrases, and our children need to hear us sincerely saying them.
- “You can do it!” The opposite of this is “can’t” and the opposite of “can’t” is “try.” These words give an attitude in our homes.
- I’m proud of you! Approving smiles and affirming words are the best vitamins for children. That doesn’t mean we don’t discipline. It means we use language to build, not to tear down. Kids don’t need to be award winners to hear us say this. Not everyone hits the ball over the fence or gets all A’s. But we all need someone who is proud of us.
- Thank you! Responsible parents are adamant about teaching their children to say this. Children also need to hear their parents say this. Thank you is an acknowledgement that another person’s actions matter. Thank you puts life in perspective.
- I need you! The truth is we need each other. It is relationships that make lives meaningful; we need to let the people in our lives know they are needed. It’s not a top-down situation. We all need each other.
- I trust you! This becomes increasingly important as a child grows older. Some one’s trust keeps us from wrong-doing and gives extra reason to do right.
- I love you! These words make a child feel protected, cared for, believed in. Say these words often. They build people.
Words are a great gift. Use them wisely."