The Importance of Your Vocabulary Choices…Or Why I stopped “Stepparenting” my Stepchildren

Your Gifts

Your Gifts

When I give my talk to women’s groups, one of ideas I end with is the importance of finding one’s voice in the world. (Of course, being of the blogging world, you already know the power that comes with declaring one’s voice :)).

It is not enough to speak out, though when using one’s voice. The key is to communicate effectively. Those who can communicate effectively are heard. Those who can not communicate effectively are not. It really is that simple.

It does not mean that those who can communicate more effectively have better ideas, it’s just the ideas have more power because of how they are conveyed.

One way we change the power of what we are communicating to ourselves and others is to become very, very honest and precise with the vocabulary we are using. This is one reason education can be such a valuable asset. It ups one’s vocabulary and in doing so increases the ability to communicate effectively.

When we do not choose our words precisely, we lose power. We say one thing, yet mean another. Or, we don’t say anything, when we meant to say everything.

I notice this in my own life. When I am finally brave enough and honest enough to give accurate words to situations, I am gifted with a sense of awakening power.

Years ago, I used to call myself “just a stepparent”. I would tell people I “stepparented” two children. (Is “stepparented” even a word? ). By using this vocabulary, although perhaps technically accurate, it did not convey AT ALL what I was actually doing and have been doing for years- RAISING two children.

That’s right. I RAISE these two children. I attend parent-teacher conferences, take the one child to high school orientation (neither parent could or would), arrive by 8 a.m. with one child at the school on “schedule change” day in order that she could get the schedule she wanted (yes, we did in fact arrive before the school counselors), complete book report projects, actually contact the teacher about stepson’s book selection, know where the children are at all times, discuss relationships, dating, give the “sex talk” and so on.

I don’t “stepparent”. That word implies some distance, as if it is child-parent- then stepparent. For some people, that may be the accurate display of their situation. That is not my situation, however.

So, I have changed my vocabulary and gotten more honest- I RAISE two children. All the time. And that has allowed me to understand why I am so busy, exhausted, joyous, strung-out, and laughing throughout my days. All the things that come with raising children.

And I think of some of other areas in which I have “hedged” my vocabulary and been less than honest. I act like being involved with narcissists is no big deal, when in fact it is. I should simply say to myself, “Being in situations with narcissists is exhausting and destabilizing. No wonder I need time to rest and take care of myself.”

Or my family of origin is split apart. IF I don’t have the vocabulary for this situation, I live in denial and act like it is no big deal, when in fact, it also places different demands and levels of awareness upon me.

So, I wonder about you- where are you being honest with your vocabulary and where are you down-playing or ignoring situations simply because the words you choose allow you to do so ? πŸ™‚


15 thoughts on “The Importance of Your Vocabulary Choices…Or Why I stopped “Stepparenting” my Stepchildren

  1. I love this post Kim! It makes us think ….really think about the words we use and the importance we attach to them. I love what you said about the “key is to communicate effectively.” My son wrote to me today…”I heard… but I didn’t listen.” And when I put that together with your post it shines a spot light on both aspects of effective communication…and they are both so important! “Listen” to what others say, and “choose” your words wisely to convey “what” you mean. Thank you for this double impact on communication this morning! ❀

  2. It’s been some time since I last visited your blog. It’s such a refresher each time I read your thoughts and awakening ideas πŸ™‚ I applaud you for being honest with your vocabulary. In fact, you are right in saying you raise these 2 children. That’s power in itself and such a big sacrifice and parenting satisfaction at the same time. I think you are already past the stepmother stage. In my view, you are the mother, the loving one who places the kids in your universe πŸ™‚

  3. Good food for thought (yay, again)! πŸ™‚ It makes sense to reflect on what we do honestly without filtering through a lens of what might be acceptable or common thought. We truly do get to define ourselves by honest assessment and are stronger in the world for it.

  4. I had a shift in my words recently, changing “I don’t have time” to “that’s not a priority”. It helped me and it has helped others, as well. I can honestly tell my boss or my parents “that’s not a priority right now” and they are much more accepting. I am much more accepting. There really is such power in words, but you are right, we can use them to hedge, and overuse them, so that we forget the power they have!

    • Love the word shift- it actually speaks to what is going on. We do have to prioritize. There is a honesty about that word that shows us we are making decisions about what we choose to do and what we choose not to do. (Sometimes I fall too much into the victim mode, thinking everything I “have” to do is being thrust upon me).

      • YES! That is it! I’m such a martyr! I just have to do so much!
        Actually, I’ve been debating if I can write a blog about my new undertaking (I mean, I don’t mind sharing, I’m not sure how to put it in words!) and how I’ve eliminated the “busyness” out of my life. (did I spell that right? See why I don’t think I can physically write about it!). Because I’ve been working on what is a priority, and not being busy just to be busy. I am actually doing as much as or more than ever before, but because I don’t feel the need to compete with how busy anyone else is, I’m not tired and worn down like others I know. Anyway… πŸ™‚ Love you Kim!

      • Well, love you right back. I think you need to blog about this! You really have made me think. I am always acting so put upon, but if I were true with myself, I would realize I am prioritizing. How beautiful would it be that for those things that I have chosen as “low priority”, I could simply let them go- why? Because I honored that they were not a high priority for me.

  5. Excellent post with words of wisdom. I have often struggled with “the right words”… I think that is why I prefer to write than to speak. Thanks for sharing this insight with us. Your “children” are blessed to have you as their “mom”… Keep up the good work, Kimberly!

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