Fishing…and words

What a child is told will not only be heard with his ears but also with his heart. The chamber of the heart is filled with echoes of words spoken to the child long after he or she has grown.

One young man told me how excited he was to go fishing when he was a kid until…his father made fun of his fishing ability. He never went fishing again. He still remembers those words and how they made him feel. Those words took the joy out of the moment. I saw the hurt in his eyes. I’m sure his father had no idea the damage he had done. The words still resonate. Hurt still hurts.

I remember walking to the car after one of my grandson’s ball games. I didn’t know the father and son who walked in front of us. The father said to his son: You should have caught that ball. Should have slid to home plate.” So many of you should have and not one ‘ata boy.’ It wasn’t just the words, it was the tone of his voice. I’m biting my tongue. My heart aches for that son.

A teachable moment has gone awry.

I once asked my grandson, Jake, if he could hear me yelling at his baseball games from the stands. “Grandma, I hear you,” he smiled. He knows that if Grandma Janet were in the stands, she would be screaming words of affirmation from the bottom of her heart to the top of her lungs. “Go, Jake!” Because your grandmother believes in you and your ability to do great things.

The power of the words of the grandmother sitting in the second row of the stands… physically and in life. Who knew there was so much power in a parent or grandparent’s voice while sitting in the stands or walking to the parking lot? The agony of defeat goes beyond the pitch.

You can shower your child with gifts galore, but that’s not what they’ll remember. They will remember what you told them… even after they grow up – the gift of words or the curse of words.

A few days ago, my three grandchildren paid a drive-by visit and said “hello.” I stuck my head in the window of their Ford Flex, and the three boys started chatting at the same time. “Gaga, you made good choices today,” says Tiberius, who is almost three years old. I laughed. I told him I was proud of him. I knew exactly where he had heard those words before. They came from his father.

Photo courtesy of Janet Hart Leonard

Matthew has a calm way of talking to his children. That doesn’t mean his voice doesn’t sometimes rise, but most of the time his voice is gentle and controlled, even when he’s disciplining them. Emphasizes good choices. (Like not getting in Vaseline and smearing it on each other.)

Harsh words do not strengthen a child. They destroy the child’s self-esteem. No father throws a stone at his child’s heart, but…

If the words are repeatedly spoken in frustration and anger, they tell the child that he or she will never live up to the parents’ expectations. They learn not to love themselves. They may spend their lives searching for love and acceptance. Only if…

Every parent has moments when they are not proud of themselves. I did. I’ve learned the power of “I’m sorry.”

If you think words don’t matter… ask the young man who remembers why he doesn’t want to go fishing.

It’s not just fishing.

When you speak, you should always be kind and wise. Colossians 4:6 ERV

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Janet Hart Leonard can be contacted at (email protected) Or follow him on Facebook or Instagram (@janethartleonard). Visit

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