Mom Just Dropped the Mic on Her Middle Schooler With a Tube of Toothpaste—and a Powerful Lesson

School is back in session for a LOT of us—my three kids start tomorrow, and as of then I’ll have a 7th grader, a 4th grader and a kindergartener. With back-to-school for us always comes a few “talks” about issues—being nice to the new kids, being nice to the kid who needs a friend, and especially for my 7th grader, making wise choices. That’s why when I came across this lesson that mom Amy Beth Gardner gave to her own middle schooler—and posted to Facebook, I knew I had to share it. Gardner’s simple lesson about the power of words, using an ordinary tube of toothpaste, became an extraordinary example of mom wisdom that I won’t soon forget. Her post reads:

toothpaste amy beth gardner

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.”

Is that a powerful lesson or WHAT? It reminds me so much of the principle in Ephesians 4:29:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)

All I have to say is, it’s a good thing I’m a crazy coupon lady and have about 78,000 extra tubes of toothpaste stored away, because I am getting my 7th grader and my 4th grader together for a toothpaste lesson TONIGHT! I am so thankful for Gardner’s wise words and that she shared them on Facebook so the rest of us could pass this fabulous illustration on to our kids as well. I pray that this toothpaste lesson leads to a whole lot of wise word choices for many kids this school year, and starts a ripple effect of kindness.

What do you think about this toothpaste lesson? Will you be sharing it with your kids as well?

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.