Many take it for granted. Many abuse it. Some use it to distraction, and
others skillfully master it. It is a vital part of our lives, and most people understand
that, but never really consider the impact it has. However, in raising children,
language is one of the most often used channels a parent will have. To a
mother’s heart, language can be a precious blessing, a fundamental tool, an
implement of communication, and a testimony to the successful attainment of a
My firstborn’s first cry, his joyful, piercing squeal, and his first sentence are
all things I’ll never forget. Though these are normal events in the development of
an infant, every mother cherishes them. They tell us our children are making
progress and are curious and capable. Even when the setting seems
inappropriate, we can’t help but be enthused when our child demonstrates a new
language skill. Sitting in a church service at First Baptist Church of Flat Rock, I
was not even thinking about my five - month old son, Jamie. He was safely
tucked away in the nursery, but when he began to squeal, I was instantly aware
that he was delighting in his newfound verbal ability. Everyone in the
congregation heard him, of course, and was amused. However, along with being
amused, I also felt a bit embarrassed, and a bit proud. My son’s potential for
language development was obvious to all. Months later, Jamie was gracious
enough to once again include the church family, when he uttered his first
sentence. After the service one evening, I visited with friends while holding Jamie
in my arms. Watching his father leave the room, Jamie quietly asked, “Where
Daddy go?” This time, there was nothing inappropriate about his timing, and I
rejoiced in his new accomplishment.
The blessing of seeing my child develop and grow was accompanied by
the assurance that I would be able to influence that development with language.
As I spoke to my child each day, I could instill lessons of life with encouragement,
instruction, and, even discipline. I could teach him how his use of language
reveals many things about himself, often giving others their first impression of him.
My children have learned these lessons, and I am encouraged to see that my son,
Garry, is giving them a high priority as he raises his own children. When I talk to
my six year old grandson, Joshua, on the phone, and he responds to my
questions with “Yes, Ma’am”, I know that he is learning desirable character
qualities like respect for his elders and authorities.
Just as the way we use language communicates our attitudes to others,
the specific words we choose can reveal our feelings and emotions. Children who
hear their parents telling them they are lovable, or that they are funny or smart,
will be ready to listen when it is necessary to deal with more challenging things. I
took in a young relative when she was seven years old, and one of the first
priorities I established with her was to frequently tell her that I loved her. I also
had many occasions to tell Amber that I was upset with her, or that I was proud of
her, or that something she had done was amusing. She soon learned to share
her feelings and emotions with me, and eventually a relationship was established.
Once established, it was maintained by sincere communication. Communication
and relationships support each other.
Every child develops differently, as any mother can tell you. As it turned
out, like their parents, none of my children were big talkers, even though their
language skills were well developed. As a child, when Garry had something to
say, it was generally worth listening to. Once, he told me that he had a
stomachache and he thought he should have some ice cream to make it feel
better. He said he had read that in the medical book. Skeptical, I asked him to
show me where it was, and he went upstairs to get the book. When I opened the
American Medical Association Medical Encyclopedia to the page he referred me
to, there, on a slip of paper, in Garry’s best handwriting, were the words, “Ice
cream is good for stomach aches.”
Though they choose their words carefully, Jamie and Garry are both
establishing their careers in fields where language is a major aspect. What a
surprise, but what satisfaction for a mother’s heart. Jamie, (now Jim), has just
begun a career as a missionary, and Garry is a linguist in the Marine Corps.
These choices indicate to me that the contribution of and steadfast attention to
language has produced a welcome harvest.
Language has influenced my children’s development in many ways. Now
that they are grown and out on their own, the most important words are the ones
they send my way, whether it is in person, on the telephone, or by E-mail. My
mother’s heart will take them any way I can get them.
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