The Importance of Tone

When my oldest son was eleven, we were blessed to go to China on a short-term mission trip. I had never been to China before, and I definitely didn’t know how to speak the language! Before our trip I learned to say “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “I love you” in Mandarin. Thankfully, a translator accompanied us everywhere we went. I loved listening to the sing-song up and down of her voice as she translated for us.

Mandarin is a tonal language. It is extremely important that you use the correct “tone” when you say words. The word for “mom” in Mandarin is mā, in the first tone (high pitch). And the word for “horse” is mǎ, in the third tone. One must be very careful so as to not call their mother a horse!

Tone is important for us in preschool ministry also. The tone we use when we talk to our little ones can either build them up or tear them down. The words we SAY are important, but just as important is the tone we use in communicating words.

A harsh tone sends a message to the child – You’re a bother. You are annoying me.
While a gentle tone communicates – I care about you. I want you here.

A harsh tone indicates impatience.
A gentle tone says, I want to take the time to care for you.

A harsh tone is destructive.
A gentle tone is healing.

Did you know the average four-year-old child asks 437 questions per day? That is about 36 questions per hour. Multiply that by ten children in your small group, and that is a BUNCH of questions! It is easy to see how one could become exasperated!

However, for one hour each week we have the opportunity to create safe place.
A place of healing.
A place of belonging.

As we minister to our littlest ones, may we be ever be reminded of the potential of our tone to have an effect on the lives of the children in our care. Let’s be mindful of our tone and make sure all of our children feel safe with us.

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