Mom Uses Toothpaste to Teach Her Daughter a Lesson Every Kid Needs to Hear

toothpaste

As the start of school approaches, many (too many) parents are worried about the possibility of their children's becoming victims of bullying this year -- but one mom's recent Facebook post is going viral as an important reminder that we should be just as concerned about our kids' becoming bullies themselves. 

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Amy Beth Gardner's daughter is just going into middle school, and, as this transition is a pretty big deal for most kids, Gardner decided they should have a pretty big talk on the night before classes began. But it wasn't about academics, getting up on time to make the bus (for a change!), or remembering to eat breakfast. In other words, it wasn't the usual night-before-school talk most of us give our kids. Instead, Gardner handed her daughter a tube of toothpaste ... and what she said next was pretty brilliant.

"I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate," Gardner writes. "When she finished, I calmly asked her to put all the toothpaste back in the tube. She began exclaiming things like 'But I can't!' and 'It won't be like it was before!'"

"Your words have the power of life or death."

As we've all seen over and over, this isn't an exaggeration.

As you go into middle school, you are about to see just how much weight your words carry. You are going to have the opportunity to use your words to hurt, demean, slander and wound others. You are also going to have the opportunity to use your words to heal, encourage, inspire and love others. You will occasionally make the wrong choice; I can think of three times this week I have used my own words carelessly and caused harm. Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can't take them back.

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So eloquent, so powerful, and so true. Telling your kids to treat others as they'd want to be treated is one thing, but what Gardner said goes above and beyond. Because not only is Gardner asking her daughter to be a decent person who doesn't do others harm, but she's also calling on her to be a "life-giver." She's letting her daughter know that she has the capability (and the responsibility) to use her life "to give life to a world that so desperately needs it" -- and that choosing kindness can, in fact, change the world.

As a parent, I find this so inspiring -- and sobering. I hope that I've done (and continue to do) a good job of teaching my kids about the importance of kindness and compassion, but I have to confess that I've always been more worried about their being bullied than becoming bullies. Why that is, I'm not sure exactly. Perhaps it's because of the bullying I experienced as a kid, or maybe it's because in general I think of my kids as good people.

But don't most parents think of their kids as good people? How many courtroom dramas have we seen where a mother sobbed, "But he was such a good boy!" while her grown serial-killer child was led away in handcuffs?

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I can't imagine my kids doing anything to hurt anyone, but in all likelihood most parents feel the same way about their kids, and somebody's still getting hurt -- so you do the math. No matter what we've tried to teach our children about how to treat others, we can never assume that they've truly absorbed our lessons.

The truth is, we don't really know how our kids interact with their peers when we're not around. Kids need constant guidance. The recent, tragic suicide of 13-year-old bullying victim Danny Fitzpatrick should serve as proof of that sad fact. Surely the parents of the bullies who drove Danny to his death were at least somewhat unaware of the extent of their children's actions. None of us are immune. 

Gardner's lesson here is one we can all learn from -- parents and children alike. Here's hoping everyone who reads her words remembers them every day ... every time we squeeze a little bit of toothpaste out of the tube. 


Image via Amy Beth Gardner/Facebook

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