When I was a substitute preschool teacher I gained a few nuggets of wisdom for dealing with 3-5 year olds effectively. Things like “use your words” and “we don’t share our germs with our friends.” I learned pretty quickly that children are very sensitive to how you say things. I told a kid once to get down from somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be, and in the middle of his excuses for why he had to be up there I said in frustration, “I don’t care, Ben, you need to…” and quickly regretted it. His lip quivered as he rebuked me: “Don’t say you don’t care because God cares!” You’re right, kid. Wrong choice of words. But still, get down.
Another lesson I learned about word choice was the use of the word “but.” In kid world, the word “but” invalidates anything said before it. Sure, you may not mean it to, but those who hear it (children or otherwise) tend to focus their attention on whatever comes after the “but,” and everything said before fades to the background, even if some really kind things came beforehand.
Continue reading “No “Buts””