There had been something magical about watching my older children fall in love with the world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Over the last few years, we have been listening to Jim Dale’s delightful reading of each book, followed by viewings of each movie. Now, we have embarked on the final installment with baited breath. It brings back my own memories of waiting for each book to be released while my wife and I were dating and how we ended up with multiple copies of each book.
With some help from a few costumes and their great imaginations, the kids have begun acting out scenes from the books and creating their own stories. It’s incredible to see how they have internalized the rules and logic of J.K. Rowling’s creation while infusing it with their own. Magic spells are cast, wands are created, and villains defeated.
Unlike some more reactionary parents, I’m not worried about my kids being seduced by witchcraft or running off to worship the devil. Yep, we draw the line at casting the killing curse in Play at another child. My concerns are a bit more practical because while the spell may not actually do anything, in reality, the words can be incredibly powerful.
Words Have Power
The words that we use with each other are incredibly powerful. While we may teach our children to chant, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me,” deep down inside as parents we know that that isn’t quite true. Someone else’s words can linger on our heads and we can perseverate on them not just for days but for years.
There is an old Jewish folktale about a man (sometimes it’s a small child) who is known to frequently say nasty things about others. Feeling remorseful, he asks his rabbi what he should do. The rabbi suggests that he take a pillow and go to the central square of the village and cut open the pillow and let the feathers fly. The man returns to the rabbi to learn what the next step is. The rabbi then instructs him to go back to the square and collect all of the feathers. The man objects saying that that simply isn’t possible because the feathers have now blown all over the place. The rabbi wisely responds to him telling him that while he may be regretful it is impossible to repair the damage done by his words.
Why My Parenting Includes Banning the Killing Curse
Like many homes, in our house, there is a list of what we refer to as no-no words. These are words that we do not allow the children to use and we strive to model not using. For example, we do not allow the kids to use the words stupid or retarded to describe people or things.
Just as the Ministry of Magic allows a wide variety of hexes and curses, we let the kids shout any number of playful spells from the books or ones that they have made up. These are part of a healthy make-believe interaction that we want them to feel free to express themselves.
Because we want the kids to see that their words have power and impact, we do not allow them to shout, “Avada Kedavra” at each other. To wish someone dead, even in play, crosses a line that we do not want the children to pass over. We may be frustrated with another person. We may even be angry at them, but at no point is it appropriate or do we have the right to wish them dead. Like it or not, this is the message that someone might receive when you shout, “Avada Kedavra” at them.
It may seem silly, but this is our way of continuing to reinforce the message that how you speak and what you say is not something that is just there in the fleeting moment. What we say now whether it is in person or on social media has the ability to come back to haunt us, so it is vitally important that we teach our children about the power of our words.
Think about the language that is used in your home. What message is being sent when you speak with your kids or when they speak with you? Are there phrases that you use with them they use that should be reconsidered? Are your words only negative or do you include praise? Remember, the damage done by words like Avada Kedavra cannot be undone just like those feathers from the pillow can never be fully collected.