Words are powerful. They can be a soothing elixir of health and wellness and they can also be deadly weapons. Choosing the words we use, in any and every relationship, very well defines our quality of relationships. We can build confidence and show our support with our words; we can also deeply hurt and wound with them. Words are the language of our thinking mind, a vehicle of expressing the way we feel and the way we see life. Words give away our life perspective. We must be careful with the words we choose.
A Little Story
Today I brought my boys to their yearly well visit. When the nurse checked Solshine’s ears the room was busy and he could not hear the beeps they were asking him to indicate. It was a chaotic visit with all three of my children in tow: Ninu was fussy, Koala was overwhelmed and demanding my full attention and Sol was going with the flow. In the midst of this chaos they wanted to retest Sol’s hearing. Wonderful. Thank you for helping my family.
However, Koala really needed to be with me and he kept talking. As I tried to quiet him the practitioner sternly told us this wasn’t going to work because, “He already flunked the hearing test and he’s going to flunk it again.”
My feathers were already ruffled as I tried to hold my family together and navigate this not-so- small mission of spending the morning at the doctors and getting my little people to agree to be poked and prodded. As I was pushed out the door with my loud three year old I was appalled at their choice of language.
What Does it Mean to Fail?
First of all, you do not fail a hearing test. A hearing test will help assess what level of hearing an individual has so that we can provide resources if they are wanted, needed and/or available. Secondly, even if you choose a perspective where you can “fail” you NEVER tell a six year old at his yearly doctors visit that he failed a test.
This doctor’s visit was a big deal for him. He thought long and hard about questions he might want to ask. He was excited about how much he had grown and I can see that he values participating in our culture which includes visiting a medical office to monitor health and wellness. It was an important milestone for him and I don’t see any place for inferring failure for being exactly who he is–hearing test or not.
Before the door clicked shut I managed to advocate. I asked her to please watch her use of language and told her that I didn’t find it appropriate. Click. The door shut and I hurried to the waiting room to ask my mother-in-law to go in the office so he would have a family member present to advocate for him. For all the hustle and bustle you would have thought we were doing emergency triage, not a hearing test that could be rescheduled if needed.
Why, Yes I am a PollyAnna
I know I can’t protect my child from the great big world, but I ask, why is the great big world determined to judge everything as right versus wrong and pass versus fail. I hear many quotes about letting go of the fear of failure (after all isn’t this what brings our greatest successes), but yet we tell our children that their bodies can fail them. Life is a gift and this gift takes many forms. Sometimes the gift does not hear well or cannot walk. Sometimes the gift cannot speak and sometimes the gift is only here for a short, short time. How could this gift, in any form, possibly indicate failure?
I think it is wise to choose our words very carefully when we speak to children. Actually, I suggest we choose our words just as carefully when we speak to partners, friends, neighbors and even strangers. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the relationships we keep with the world around us. We can nourish those relationships with wise, empowering words. Please choose carefully.
What would you do if a doctor told your child they “flunked”. Do you think I am overreacting to think health care professionals (or anyone) should be more mindful with the language they use with clients?