Well, if you didn’t already think so before, this post will do it for you. Yes, my friends, I’m a bit of a Pollyanna.
I believe in karma, and that you get out of the world what you put into it. I believe being kind is your greatest asset. I believe in the power of positivity. And like the great Whitney Houston sang, I even believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way (okay, maybe I’m taking it a bit too far, but you get the point.)
This is why “hate” is a four letter word in our house.
To be clear, I wouldn’t say my husband and I swear like sailors, but we do have a repertoire of cuss words that we will use when the situation calls for it. And yes, there may have been an incident where my youngest clearly said an expletive when she dropped a box of crayons in her two-year old pre-school class. You can imagine where she picked that up.
But I would rather my kids drop the f-bomb than say the word “hate,” especially when talking about another human being.
When I was pregnant with my twins, I was put on bed rest due to pre-term contractions. I was too nervous to read books and couldn’t focus on television all the time, so I would flip through magazines my mom would buy or friends would drop off each week. I remember reading an article about the influence fathers had on CEOs. One African-American business leader stated that his dad never let him use the word hate because there was no good that came out of hating anything, and by hating something, you give it more power over your life than it deserved. He went on to state that although he knew he was hated for his color at times, not returning the sentiment was liberating and enabled him to focus on breaking barriers of his own.
The idea that removing a word out of your vocabulary could have such a profound impact on your life was intriguing and inspiring. The word certainly did elicit the most negative of feelings (hate crimes, hate mail, etc.) so my first act as mom to my unborn children was committing to not use the word.
Pretty early on I explained to the girls why I didn’t like the word hate, especially when it came to people. I even told them that it was a punishable offense for saying it, although I don’t remember ever having to act on that threat. I sometimes would hear them gasp when someone said it on TV or one of them would come to me and show the “bad” word to me in a book. I would explain that other people used it, but in our house, we would not say it. It was like eating M&Ms, but in a bad way. Once you started, it was hard to stop. They totally got that concept.
As my kids aged, I realized how the word hate did impact children. When kids use the word freely, it becomes a regular part of their vocabulary, and most do not have the emotional intelligence to discern why hating broccoli is okay but hating your little sister isn’t. I also found that the kids that said it regularly were just a little bit more of a downer in general. It made sense to me. An overuse of anything can lead to a negative outcome. This does not mean I think that parents who let their kids say it are bad, or that I dislike kids that use the word, I’m just sharing my own personal experience.
School has also helped my girls understand how powerful the word can be. Discussions about slavery, Martin Luther King, Jr., 9-11 and the Civil War all can be traced back to the word hate. It’s all over our history.
And while I understand that I have yet to raise a teenager, I can imagine the phrase “I hate you Mom” flows out a little more freely when the word is already established in a young mind’s vocabulary. I am not naive enough to think my kids will never utter those words that will rip my heart in two, but a mom can dream that it may postpone it as long as possible.
A few months ago, a little girl was at our house to play. The girls seemed to be enjoying each other and stopped to have a snack. She had nice manners and a good sense of humor, but then she talked about how she hated her brother because he smelled. Then she hated her mom because she wouldn’t give her soda all the time. Sometimes she even hated her dog because he barked and woke her up in the morning. I did not think it would be long before this little girl started hating some of her friends for their inadequacies, or just for whatever bugged her on that particular day.
As I was debating whether or not to say something to this kid I barely knew, I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter leaned over and whispered, “We’re not allowed to say that word. You don’t have to like it, but you can’t say you hate it.”
I braced myself for a little eight-year-old backlash, but instead I heard her say, “Oh, sorry. I really don’t hate my dog. I just hate it when he barks.”
“I don’t like when my dog barks either,” my daughter responded.
Sigh. I could feel the ray of light shining down on me and the angels singing in the background. They DO listen to me sometimes. It was parenting nirvana.
I know there are a lot of parents out there who see it as just a word, or find the “banning” of any word a tad ridiculous. But I’m happy that — at least for now — my kids are using their internal thesaurus when they talk about their negative feelings towards vegetables, bed time, and their friends. I have also found that taking the word out of my vocabulary has made a little extra room in my heart for the things I love, which hate can sometimes crowd out.
A few minutes later, I heard a burp that sounded like it came out of an oversized truck driver, followed by a set of giggles. The offender happened to be related to me.
“My mom hates it when I burp!” said our little friend. “Whoops, I mean she doesn’t like it.”
Well, I can’t argue with her on that one.
What words — if any — do you keep out of your house? Please share in the comments section below!