Getting any kind of message through a teen’s head can be difficult. Particularly when it involves encouraging them to consider anything outside their own little bubble, like, you know, other people ‘n’ stuff.
But one US mum found a unique (and frankly pretty genius) way to do just that.
Using a tube of toothpaste, Amy Beth Gardner managed to give her adolescent daughter a lesson in kindness, in the power of words to both hurt and heal.
She explains how in a now-viral Facebook post.
Amy Beth Gardner's daughter, Breonna. Image: Facebook/Amy Beth Gardner
The night before her teen started middle school, her backpack filled, her new uniform pressed, her locker decorated, Gardner sat her down and asked her to empty a tube of toothpaste on to 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!'," wrote Garnder.
"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'."
That, boys and girls, is what Her Majesty Oprah calls "a teaching moment".
Since it went online just a matter of days ago, Garnder's post has been liked by more than 600,000 people and shared by at least 675,000, with hundreds more praising her in the comments.
"This was beautiful! Such a great illustration of compassion and kindness," wrote one commenter.
"I did this in my second grade classroom today," wrote another.
And perhaps the most poignant response: "Adults need this, too."
Go ahead, Amy Beth Gardner. It's time to drop that mic.
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