Unless you are living under a rock, you are very aware that it is back-to-school season. Every family I know is running around town picking up the last of the school supplies, clothes, and other odds and ends that their children need for the next phase of their education. But it’s easy to forget that pens, notebooks, uniforms, and computers are just the material items that our children need, and as parents it is our responsibility to provide them with mental tools as well.
Amy Beth Gardner, a Cleveland, Tennessee, mom did not overlook this part of the back-to-school process, sharing her ingenious lesson to her middle school daughter in a Facebook post that is quickly going viral.
In the post, Amy explains that in preparation for her daughter Breonna’s first day of middle school, they had accomplished all the normal tasks, like decorating her locker and getting her school uniform ready. But just before bed, they did another “pre-middle school task” which she explains as being “far more important than the others.”
“I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate,” she wrote. “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!’”
At this point in the Facebook post, Amy’s daughter wasn’t the only person who was confused. I wondered to myself: where could she possibly be going with this? But Amy continued:
“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. Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can’t take them back.”
At that moment, it all clicked. This brilliant woman just explained the importance of kindness to a tween with only a tube of toothpaste and a plate.
Once words come out of our mouth, whether they are kind or cruel, we cannot take them back.
“Use your words carefully, Breonna,” she concluded. “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.”
To make the story even more beautiful, Amy Beth fostered several children before adopting her daughters, who she clearly loves enough to move mountains. If you are in need of a good cry, visit her Facebook page and read more about her life.
It isn’t surprising that Amy’s post has been shared over 565k times since August 14, and it is very likely that parents across the world will be plopping down a few extra bucks for a tube of toothpaste today, so they can also teach their children this priceless message.