I am continually more convinced that when I don’t know what to say, I should just say nothing. I have learned this myself, sometimes very painfully, but also through the countless examples of others.
When there seems to be a space, a void, a pause in conversation we people seem to be tempted to fill it with something…well…dumb. When we are surprised, angered, annoyed, or astonished by what we see or hear, we sometimes speak before thinking.
Am I right?
Well as a young mother I am very aware of this human phenomenon of open-mouth-insert-foot. However my concern is that too many people don’t realize what they are doing! They may not even see how discouraging their “funny” statements hurled at a mother whilst she is juggling with a smile (or not) on her face can be. Or sometimes it’s not as much discouraging as it is sad, annoying, or even angering.
I value my children. I love them dearly. Yes, they annoy me sometimes. However I want them to know how deeply loved, valued, and precious they are to their Creator and the two parents He entrusted them to (as well as others who know and love them). So when these thoughtless words are thrown my way while my children are within earshot I actually get kind of mad. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable either. I don’t, by God’s grace, sin in that anger by hurling something sharp back (even though I think of some good ones sometimes), but still it bothers me. Why not build up and encourage instead?
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13 NASB)
Now before someone accuses me of having an angry tone or being judgmental here, please know that this is not the place from which I am writing this post. Really my hope is that those who don’t even realize how their words may be impacting a young mother or father and their children will think more carefully before speaking. Also perhaps those who know they may be less than encouraging, but perhaps think they are just teasing or being funny will think twice, as well. I know you are trying to be funny. But really. Just don’t.
You really don’t know what is going on in a person’s heart and mind at the time of your encounter. What if she is really struggling this particular day, and your flippant comment becomes the last straw? What if this dad feels overwhelmed at that moment, and your words just fly on top of the pile? What if instead your encouraging words can lift these parents back up to their feet and give them the strength to finish the day well? Would this be a better use of words, of air, of interaction?
So here are some examples of words and phrases I would recommend you NOT say to a young mother or father (or anyone maybe?):
1. Wow, your hands are full.
2. Are you running a daycare or something…haha.
3. How many children are you going to have (with a disapproving tone)?
4. Just wait until they are teenagers…
5. Look she’s got her own future women’s basketball team.
6. She’s two huh? Well enjoy the terrible twos!
7. All girls huh? Your poor husband.
And here are some examples especially for the young mother who is also pregnant:
1. You know what causes that right?
2. You’re a glutton for punishment huh?
3. Hope you’re not having another girl. They are tough as teenagers/expensive/because you’ll have to pay for another wedding…
4. You gonna keep trying for a boy?
5. Perhaps you and your husband need a hobby huh?
How about some encouraging things to say instead?
1. You’re doing a great job, Mom/Dad.
2. Do you need some help with that?
3. What a beautiful family!
4. You are so blessed.
5. They are precious.
6. Don’t worry, Mom/Dad, it gets easier.
7. You are in for even more joy because it just keeps getting better.
Maybe you’re not feeling any of these last examples. Then just smile and walk past or make friendly conversation, but please encourage young parents. They need it. If you are an older parent, you might remember that you needed encouraging, too. If you think you have a funny comment to say, but it might be less than funny to someone else, just keep it to yourself. Please.
And to you young parents out there…
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17 NIV)
And if you don’t know how to respond to some of the things people say, here are some examples of what I’ve tried out:
1. Yes my hands are full…full of blessings.
2. Yes my hands are full…You should see my heart though.
3. I am blessed, I know.
4. Children are a blessing, and I am very thankful for mine.
5. They are loved dearly.
Some people just really don’t see children as a blessing. Perhaps their own experiences and definitely their own belief systems have led them to this conclusion. Show grace. I know it can be super annoying. I know. However, let the Lord fill you with His grace to give out to others. They probably need it more than you realize. And if you are able, let people know that their words are not encouraging to you. Gently help them realize this. You could be doing a favor for another parent they might encounter later.
Now go hug your children and enjoy the gifts you have in them (unless they are sleeping – then just wait until they wake up to do this!).
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 NASB)