By making a comparison using a simple household item, this mom taught her young daughter a life lesson about the “power of words”—one that she will never forget … a reminder of the importance of social skills.
Paul and Amy Gardner from Cleveland adopted Breonna, 11, and her sister, Bridgett, 7, in 2014. When Breonna turned 11, she was just about to enter middle school, and Amy wanted to give her something worth cherishing.
“Right before she went to sleep, I told her I wanted to talk to her about words and how she was becoming more and more responsible for her words,” Gardner told TODAY.
By taking an everyday commodity and connecting it to its contents, she would pose a question that would enable Breonna to use her own reasoning skills to draw a conclusion.
“I came up with the idea as I was brushing my teeth the other night,” she added.
Amy took a tube of toothpaste and emptied it out onto a plate. She then asked Breonna to put it back inside. Breonna said: “But I can’t! It won’t be like it was before!”
Amy then told Breonna to always remember this simple lesson and never to forget the plate of toothpaste. She said, “Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can’t take them back.”
The picture of a tube of toothpaste and its emptied contents on a plate became a powerful, viral metaphor for parents of children of all ages.
Words can influence, words can harm, and words can heal. Once spoken, they will remain ingrained in the minds and hearts of those who listen.
Amy posted an image of the toothpaste on the plate and uploaded to Facebook with her words of advice to her daughter:
“You will remember this plate of toothpaste for the rest of your life. Your words have the power of life or death. 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. Use your words carefully, Breonna. When others are misusing their words, guard your words.”
“Make the choice every morning that life-giving words will come out of your mouth. Decide tonight that you are going to be a life-giver in middle school. Be known for your gentleness and compassion. Use your life to give life to a world that so desperately needs it. You will never, ever regret choosing kindness,” she wrote.
Though this metaphor is not an original one, Gardner said that it was important to use the analogy to prepare her daughter for life ahead. “I had been thinking for weeks about how my daughter was entering middle school and how I wanted to prepare her as best as I could.”