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Someone called me "four eyes" for the first time in middle school.

It didn't bother me enough to stop wearing my glasses, which I'd proudly worn since third grade — but those first bullying words stuck with me.

Yep, that's me and my beloved "four eyes" days! Image from the author, used with permission.


Middle school is a time when words start to matter a little bit more.

As teens try to shape their identities, insults can sting for a little longer. Peers' opinions seem to matter more. Teens want to be cool and unique, but they also want to fit in and belong.

That's why Amy Beth Gardner, a loving mom from Cleveland, Tennessee, squeezed out a tube of toothpaste for her daughter.

Huh? Let me explain.

Last week, Amy shared a story on Facebook about an interaction she had with her 11-year-old daughter, Breonna. First, Amy gave Breonna a tube of toothpaste and squirted it all out onto a plate. Then she asked her to put it back into the tube.

Breonna was understandably confused and frustrated. But the toothpaste was her mother's brilliant and beautiful metaphor for explaining that words matter. Once your words are out of your mouth, you can't just put them back in your mouth ... just like the toothpaste.

"My toothpaste was a mess and I went to clean it and started thinking about how, just like words once you have said them, you can't put toothpaste back in a tube," Amy said.

Here's Amy's original post:

My daughter starts middle school tomorrow. We've decorated her locker, bought new uniforms, even surprised her with a...

Posted by Amy Beth Gardner on Sunday, August 14, 2016

Here's the full text:

"My daughter starts middle school tomorrow. We've decorated her locker, bought new uniforms, even surprised her with a new backpack. But tonight just before bed, we did another pre-middle school task that is far more important than the others. I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate. 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!' I quietly waited for her to finish and then said the following:

'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. 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.'"

We all have a choice about whether to say something hurtful or hold it in — and that's what's important.

As Amy acknowledges in the post, everyone — including herself — can make the wrong choice sometimes and say something hurtful. We can either choose to use our words for good and make people feel better about themselves, or the other way around.

What Amy did is not only admirable, but also necessary.

Bullying is a major problem in schools, and it's important to teach kids and teens that their words have power.

Can you imagine if more parents used this clever metaphor to teach their kids about the weight of their words? That's a lot of wasted toothpaste, but a whole lot of spared feelings and goodness in the world too.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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Small actions lead to big movements.

Acts of kindness—we know they’re important not only for others, but for ourselves. They can contribute to a more positive community and help us feel more connected, happier even. But in our incessantly busy and hectic lives, performing good deeds can feel like an unattainable goal. Or perhaps we equate generosity with monetary contribution, which can feel like an impossible task depending on a person’s financial situation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the main reason people don’t offer more acts of kindness is the fear of being misunderstood. That is, at least, according to The Kindness Test—an online questionnaire about being nice to others that more than 60,000 people from 144 countries completed. It does make sense—having your good intentions be viewed as an awkward source of discomfort is not exactly fun for either party.

However, the results of The Kindness Test also indicated those fears were perhaps unfounded. The most common words people used were "happy," "grateful," "loved," "relieved" and "pleased" to describe their feelings after receiving kindness. Less than 1% of people said they felt embarrassed, according to the BBC.


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She's enjoying the big benefits of some simple life hacks.

James Clear’s landmark book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The book is incredibly popular because it has a simple message that can help everyone. We can develop habits that increase our productivity and success by making small changes to our daily routines.

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” James Clear writes. “It is only when looking back 2 or 5 or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

His work proves that we don’t need to move mountains to improve ourselves, just get 1% better every day.

Most of us are reluctant to change because breaking old habits and starting new ones can be hard. However, there are a lot of incredibly easy habits we can develop that can add up to monumental changes.

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