Four Letter Words

Tammy Cox By Tammy Cox, 1st Mar 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Parenting

Four letter words are often thought of as bad. This article looks at some that are good and very helpful to use in relationships.

Some Four Letter Words Are Good!

When it comes to four letter words, most people think of the objectionable ones - the kind that children often use on the playground when they think no adults are listening -- the kind that make you angry when your spouse uses them in front of the kids. That may be a valuable topic for another time, but this article is about a few four-letter words that we should probably be using a lot more.

1. "Want"

Parents might discourage children from using this word because children always seem to be wanting something and when parents can't or don't think they should give it they might feel guilty for saying "no." Instead of discouraging it I suggest teaching children that it is always OK to ask for what you want, just as it is always OK to say "no" as long as it is said kindly and respectfully. This attitude will do a lot to cut down on the whining and begging that often results in the parent resentfully giving in. It also teaches the child a valuable skill that will help them get more of what they want in life. How many adults have real problems asking for what they want -- like a pay raise? How many believe that the only way they can get what they want is to manipulate, demand or prove their worthiness? And how many of us fear being told "no" so much that we don't even ask?

2. "Sure"

The word "sure" can be used to not only say "yes," but to emphasize it and create possibility thinking. I encourage parents to use it often. Many think it is wise to tell children "no" just because children need to always know who is the boss. I suggest saying "sure" unless there is a good reason to say "no." This will teach the child that they are important and what they want does matter. It also allows them to feel powerful at making things happen and successful at getting what they want in life.

3. "Help"

Children really do want to help. They want to feel like they are an important and contributing member of the family. So asking for their help (not demanding it) is a great way to allow children to feel powerful and at the same time teach them that working as a team allows everyone to better accomplish their goals. They will also feel more included in family activities. The important thing here is to make sure to thank them and validate their contribution. We all want to feel appreciated and are encouraged by acknowledgment.

4. "Work"

Meaningful work is what adds purpose to most of our lives, yet we talk about it as if it is distasteful - something we only do because we have to. In Montessori schools they call all the activities of the children their "work" in a way that makes it something that children want to do. When children are taught that work is valuable and can be enjoyable they are not only more willing, but they are more likely to seek out the kinds of professions that will energize and inspire them.

5. "Care"

How often does a child accuse a parent of not caring? When we tell children we don't care they can mistakenly assume we don't care about them. Children tend to take things much more literally than adults. Most parents really do care deeply about their children so I suggest instead of saying "I don't care" using a phrase like "I have no preference," or "either choice is fine with me." Children do need to know that we care about them -- their safety, their fears, their dreams, their struggles and their feelings. Tell them often how much you care. "I care about you and want you to stay safe."

This familiar quote by Theodore Roosevelt really applies to children: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

6. "Feel"

Children start learning at a very early age that expressing feelings can sometimes cause problems. Parents with the best of intentions teach them this in many ways. If when a child cries the tears are stopped with a cookie, the child learns to stuff feelings with food, which can later be exaggerated or replaced with other substances to numb out on. If parents express their anger in hurtful or scary ways a child may learn that anger is dangerous and suppress their own. Depression is usually a result of not expressing anger. Children should be taught to express all of their feelings, even anger, in ways that are healthy and appropriate -- and the best way to teach them this is for adults to model it. It is also important to accept and validate their feelings while at the same time giving them appropriate outlets for expression. We all have a right to express whatever we are feeling. We do not, however, have a right to express those feelings in hurtful ways.

7. "Love"

I've saved the most important for last. This is a word that many adults have trouble with. We all want to hear it more, but are often afraid to use it. Even people who have promised to love 'til death do us part' will often avoid using the words or will use them in a flippant, nonchalant or humorous way which dilutes the true meaning. "Love ya!" "You know I love you, why do I have to keep proving it?" This is why so many people just don't feel loved even if they are told they are loved. A client once said, "What if I tell my husband how much I really love him and he doesn't feel the same way about me?" She finally understood that her worrying about the tally sheet was preventing her from hearing what she most wanted to hear from her spouse. And of course her husband was also feeling similar fears. When they got the courage to express how much love they really had for one another their whole relationship changed.

Parents often give children mixed messages about love. They sometimes even say they are hitting them because they love them. A well-known 'expert' advocates, "only spanking with love." So to him, love means pain? When I am feeling loving toward someone, the last thing I want to do is hurt him or her in any way.

There was recently a TV commercial where a young man is accusing his father of being disrespectful (snooping, asking suspicious questions, demanding answers, etc.) and says that he will never treat his son that way. The father says, "You will if you love him." Every time I see that ad I want to kindly tell that poor man that being disrespectful is a very poor way to show his son how much he loves him and that the price he will pay in lost closeness will never be worth it. If he were to treat his son in a more loving and respectful way, there would be no reason to question his son's behavior because the son would not feel so compelled to rebel and keep secrets from him. The way to get kids to confide in you is to create a loving and accepting atmosphere and give them unconditional love.


How I learned that “No!” Just Means “No.” The Little Word That Many People Hate to Say and Dread Hearing.
How to Handle Children's Feelings So They Can Learn to Deal With Them

Why You Should Be Your Child's Best Friend: Relationship is the Best Key to Effective Parenting


Communication, Feelings, Parenting, Relationships, Respect

Meet the author

author avatar Tammy Cox
Parent educator and instructor trainer, relationship coach, public speaker, writer, Mother, Grandmother, former caregiver of elderly parent and now several dogs and a cat.

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