The Words You Choose:
A Barrel and a Thimble
Today's snack: get a thimble from a
sewing kit, and drink fruit juice from it
along with a cereal mix
Thimble (clean and dry!)
Biggest trash can or barrel you can
Print out this page
"Sticks and stones may break my
bones, but words will never harm me." That old saying is not really true.
The words you choose when you speak to other people are
really, really important. They can hurt, or they can help. You should do some
thinking about why you choose the words you do, and what happens when you (1)
are careful with the words you say, or (2) just spout off the first thing that
comes to your mind.
They say the average young person in an American school
today has a vocabulary of up to 50,000 words. If so, there is NO EXCUSE for
calling anyone a bad name or using curse words to describe how you feel. You
have tens of thousands of words to draw from, and they all have a clear,
Learn to think of the words that you
know as being available to you in a big storage BARREL. There are thousands in
there for you to choose from. You want to be adding to your barrel of
vocabulary words all the time. The more words you know, the smarter you'll
sound, and the more precise your communication will be.
But there's a lot of judgment involved with choosing the
right words to say at any given time. And that judgment usually comes with
experience and practice. It's not unusual for young people to mess up and say
the wrong things at the wrong times. We all do it! But with understanding, and
practice, you'll get to the point where your word choice will be pretty
Usually, with your family, friends, or in school, when you are talking about
something that does not make you upset or is not controversial and could not
embarrass or anger anyone else, it's a good idea to use as many words as you
can without getting too self-conscious of the words that you choose to use. A
big vocabulary is a matter of pride.
But when it comes time to speak in times of trouble or
tension - especially when you're upset or in conflict with someone - it's time
to become very, very careful with the words you choose to use. At times like
that, try to discipline your mind to only draw from a tiny THIMBLE full of
words to make your point, so that you don't end up using "fighting words" that
will only make the other person feel worse and turn what should just be a
disagreement into a full-fledged argument or worse.
Let's pretend that in the big barrel we've brought in for
this activity, there are thousands of words that you can use during your
everyday life and in school. Now here is a list of words that you are supposed
to cut out as small as you can, and then if you think it's a word that would be
helpful to use during a conflict or emotional discussion, crinkle it up and put
it into your thimble. If it's a word that would NOT be a good idea to use at
such a time, crinkle it up and throw it away! Then, when you get the words you
believe you can use constructively while in a fight, go ahead and put each one
into a sentence, to show how you can put your smart word choice to better use!
You can probably think of many more words, but not THAT many
will fit in a thimble! So good luck getting skilled at choosing the right words,
and keep adding positive new words to that big barrel of yours all the time!