Focus on the Family: We Are Family

Focus on the Family - The importance of the "we" pronoun.

by Dr. Kathy Koch 

Are you an “I” parent or a “we” parent? Think about this before continuing. What do you think I mean?

From me to we

When I established Celebrate Kids, Inc., back in 1991, I felt alone, even though I wasn’t. Not only did I have God, but I was invited to Fort Worth, Tex., by some great people who offered me mentoring, rent-free office space, and friendship. They continue to be significant to me personally and to the ministry God has entrusted to me. Yet it was appropriate to use the word “I” when speaking about Celebrate Kids, Inc., since there weren’t any other employees. In the day-to-day tasks, I was very much alone.

Since that time, God has grown Celebrate Kids, Inc., in part because of a grant we received to provide abstinence-only education to 12-to-18-year-olds at Fort Hood in Killeen, Tex. There are now nine part-time staff members, and several people with whom we contract hours with, and several associate speakers. No longer do I use the word “I” when talking about Celebrate Kids, Inc. I used to talk about “my” procedures and “my” topics. I wrote, “I’m grateful” on receipts for contributions to support “my” cause. Not anymore.

Pride in the way

A trusted friend lovingly pointed out that I was still using the words “I, me, my, mine” when in reality, God was using all of us. She was right. I hadn’t even seen it. Although I quickly wanted to shrug it off as only a habit, God showed me my pride was also involved. And, by using “I, me, my, and mine” when “we, us, our, and ours” were more accurate, I was negating our staff (not “my” staff). How unfair!

How is this relevant to a column about children? That’s a fair question. My increased sensitivity to the word “I” has caused me to hear how often moms use it when “we” is probably more accurate and healthier.

Change that pronoun

Four of us recently attended a conference about military children. The wife of a general scheduled to address us introduced her husband. When talking about their children, she slipped up and said, “My daughter …” I was proud of her for stopping to correct herself. She apologized and started over by saying, “Our daughter …”

If your children ask you to take them somewhere, do you respond, “I’m too busy” or “We’re too busy”? If they ask for money to go to a movie, do you say, “We can’t afford it” or “I can’t afford it”? If you use the word “I” when “we” is more accurate, your children may draw the conclusion that their dad isn’t involved. You’re busy, but he isn’t. You don’t have money, but he does.

“We” implies you and your husband are a united team.

“We” suggests you and your husband are communicating.

“We” is the fruit of mutual respect for your husband’s opinions and involvement.

I’ve asked God to increase my sensitivity to the words “I, me, my, and mine” and He has. I’m getting better at not using them.

That affects us vs. That affects me.

We need to think about that vs. I need to think about that.

God is meeting our needs vs. God is meeting my needs.

Honor others

Are there times when “I, me, my, and mine” are absolutely appropriate? Yes, but less often than I thought. In fact, I’m often using “our” when discussing the book I’ve written. Sometimes people ask me who the other author is. I explain I’m the only author, but that without everyone involved with Celebrate Kids, Inc., there wouldn’t be a book. It’s one way I honor our staff and Board of Directors. (Not “my” staff or “my” Board.)

The holy we

Single parents are more likely to use “I, me, my, and mine.” I know a widow who so relies on God as her co-parent that she uses statements like “We will decide what’s best.” Her children know who the “we” refers to. In fact, when they don’t like her decisions or answers to questions, she sometimes responds, “You’re welcome to go ask your Father if you want to.” There are times when even single parents can remind their children they’re not alone.

Keep yourself accountable

Listen closely as you talk with others about your family and your children. Listen closely when you talk with your children. Do you say “I, me, my, and mine” when you could say “we, us, our, and ours?” If you are, I believe you’ll benefit from asking God to show you why you are. Then, I pray, you’ll deal with the reasons. Perhaps pride or a lack of respect for your husband is involved. Maybe it’s simply that you’ve never thought about this before. I hope you’ll respond appropriately.

These changes may not occur instantaneously. To help, you might want to ask someone to hold you accountable. In fact, talking with your husband would probably be a great step. You could also let your children know you want to make this change. If you give them permission to respectfully remind you when you use the words “I, me, my, mine,” I imagine the changes will occur more easily. I can almost guarantee it.

Related Article(s):
    Focus on the Family – Letting Go, Pass It On


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