By Marnita Coleman, Special to the AFRO

I am often stunned by what I overhear parents say to their children. Carelessly, they open their mouths and unleash all kinds of negative words on the very ones they are expected to protect.  Our words have the power to build something up or tear it down, and whether you know it or not, words have a long-term effect. Sadly, we have all on both sides of that coin.

When we talk to our children, we should be mindful as to how our words are impacting them.  Are your words hurting your children, or are they healing them? Wayne Dyer, a former motivational speaker, gave profound insight when he said, “I’d rather be kind than right.” Each child has a different temperament, so always strive for peace in conversations, not war. Grasping this concept will undoubtedly prevent an emotional showdown.

(Courtesy Bing Images)

Years ago, a young lady, her mom, and her Nana were riding in the car heading to an event. Nana was discussing something with her mom, and the young lady sat, passively listening, to the grown-up’s conversation until she heard her name mentioned. Now, with all of her attention on their conversation, she overheard her Nana say that she was flat out ugly.

For the next 30 years those words tormented the young woman, as she suffered from low self-esteem, inferiority, depression, and bitterness. The young lady went from being sweet and warm to cold and sour. Resentment set into her heart, and sure enough, little miss innocent became a promiscuous girl.  

She had a train wreck of a marriage and was never lucky in love. She was miserable in life, until some much needed therapy got to the root of her behavior.

Eventually, after intense counseling, she was able to recover from a lifetime of emotional hurt and now lives a vibrant and enjoyable life. When she began to change her mind with truths about herself that counteracted what she had previously heard, those old thoughts and actions that once kept her prisoner, were uprooted.

Although the lady no longer believed what her Nana said, she wanted to know why her Nana said it. Her summation was that Nana called her ugly, not because she was an unattractive kid, but because she didn’t pass the “brown paper bag test.” She was darker in complexion than all the other grandchildren, and that automatically made her an ugly duckling. It was a twisted mindset.

I want to believe this story would be different if the times were different. Certainly, Nana would rather have bit her own tongue than harm her granddaughter, but ,yet, Nana’s reckless use of words caused decades of suffering. Her mother does not get a pass either. Although her silence was not an act of agreement, it was displaced loyalty in showing respect to Nana and not defending her daughter.

Through the years, parents and guardians have spoken terrible things over their children.  Sometimes their words were intended to hurt, but more often, their insults were just ignorance. Then, ironically, parents stand wondering why their children react to them in such an adverse way.

As parents, we need to watch our mouths so that we do not harm or tear our children down.  Ain’t you never heard, “He who guards his mouth and tongue, guards himself from trouble.” I’m not only talking in the obvious things like using profanity, angry tones, and derogatory words. I am also talking about the way parents respond to their children’s dreams, ambitions, and desires. In the day to day arena, if you do not have anything good to say, just say “WOW!”  Remaining neutral may be perceived as showing support. This will result in an outcome of peace, especially with older kids.

Marnita Coleman is an author and host of The Marnita Show, a parenting show heard daily across the globe. For more parenting information and to contact Marnita, log onto

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