There are people who have a talent for sticking their foot in their mouth and then there are people who just don't care what they say. Words are either gifts or weapons and I strive to keep what comes out of my mouth to be a gift. However, it's impossible to live as long as I have and not occasionally say something I regret. I'm guessing that most of us do. The only person I know who had complete control over what she said was my Grandma Layne. She lived to be 89 and not once did I ever hear her say anything bad about anyone.
The worst offenses with words, in my opinion, are those hurled by adults at children. When I was a little girl an incident happened to me that I have never forgotten. I was wearing a new dress and my teacher looked at my dress and said, "One day you will be sorry you ate so much." I never wore the dress again and her words went straight to my heart.
There are just some things you should never say to a child (or anyone else for that matter). Grandma's rule for life was, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." In other words, think because you speak.
1. Never say anything negative about your grandchild's weight and never ever say "fat." The only people who should discuss a child's weight with them are the child's parents and their pediatrician. My role as a grandparent is to help with healthy eating habits and encourage exercise. Nothing else.
2. Never say anything negative about appearance choices and never ever say "ugly." If a child loves a pair of plaid shorts and striped top and insists on wearing them, why not? I admit I would have fought this battle with my children, but as a grandmother I know they look precious wearing anything. I'm a nana not a fashion critic.
3. Never compare children to other children and never ever say "dumb (or any other word with the same meaning). "Your brother is so smart. Why don't you make good grades like him?" Self esteem is so important and as grandparents we want to do everything we can to make a child feel good about themselves. Comparing them to others only makes them feel inferior.
4. Never say anything bad about a child's parents in front of them. I don't care if they have said something bad about you or you strongly disapprove of something they are doing. Keep your mouth shut! A child doesn't have the knowledge or capability to sort out complicated situations. Angry words will only confuse and frustrate them.
5. Never say "never." As in, my grandchild will never do this or do that. If it didn't work with your kids why would it work with your grandchild? Never can also be bad when you tell a "never" tell this to anyone. Kids can't keep secrets and it's not fair to expect them to. Secrets are for grown-ups and even then most of them will share with someone and say, "I'm not supposed to say anything but ... and then ask you not to tell." If you have a secret don't weigh a child down with it. If you have to tell someone, tell an adult. Grandparents should "never" say anything in anger. Words have a way of flying out of our mouths and once they are gone, we can't take them back. Studies have shown that verbal abuse of a child can have lasting effects.
Always focus on the positive and if you have any doubts about what you are about to say ... don't say it. Make your words gifts not weapons.