The Most Powerful Words in the World

thank you

It was a long day filled with tasks. I wanted more time, more leisure, more space between the doing of things. I sighed and pulled on my boots. Our family was coming up on the first year anniversary of my husband’s death and we were all struggling with the firsts—the first Thanksgiving without his gravy, the first holiday season without his wrestling the Christmas tree in place, the first time we will link hands in the Thanksgiving circle without him. We were carving out a new normal, and one of our latest traditions is Sunday suppers, where we drop everything and break bread together. I headed over to Jenna and Nick’s home.  We ate roast beef and baked potatoes, the kids chased each other, and in the end I pulled on my coat to return home. Finn threw open the back door as I made my way to the car.
“Nana!” he yelled, “I love you!”
He grinned. I grinned.
“I love you too!” I said, and I drove home filled with those beautiful unasked for words.

There are many things we need to teach our children as they grow up and out into the world. It begins with language. Theirs: Mama, Dada, night-night, and ours: say please; excuse me when you interrupt; wait. But the most powerful words in any language, that can shift a situation and open a heart are Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry.

Thank you
At its core, it is an expression of gratitude, and gratitude is one of the most important feelings in the range of human emotions. It reframes tragedy, cultivates compassion, and reminds us of the abundance– sometimes despite the circumstances–that remains in all our lives. Gratitude is a “…psychological immune system that bulletproofs you in times of crisis…” states Robert Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. Teaching our children to say thank you is more than manners. It is a way for human beings to recognize an action, gift, or unexpected outcome, and honor it. Thanksgiving is an opportunity for a collective thank you, as we witness the young and the old finding the words to express the things they are grateful for.

I love youcute-love-quotes-for-her-568x580
“Most people think love is an emotion,” Rabbi Shmuley says. “In truth, it is an activity.”
An activity threaded through with regard, emotion, and affection. The words I love you can settle into the bones of who we are and strengthen our resolve, make us more confident, more resilient to life’s challenges. To be lovable is one of the warmest and most endearing feelings in our lives. Love begins with our parents, and by articulating it we grow to find others lovable, we make connections, and open ourselves to the rich vulnerability of deep relationships.

I am sorry
We are human. We will make mistakes, betray confidences, lose our tempers, and say terrible things to those we love. Silence can be toxic as we struggle to make it right again. Grudges are a waste of time and solve little. No one is a mind a reader and even though we may be sorry in our hearts, we need to say the words for healing to begin.

I am sorry can be transformative—from parent to child, child to parent, to our partners, colleagues and loved ones. An apology is liberating, and forgiveness is a true gift when it happens. Don’t wait. There is freedom from guilt and shame in an apology, and teaching our children begins with the willingness to say it ourselves.

Teach your children well.

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