Teaching Kids That Words Have Power
Parenting can be a tough business. As adulting. Sometimes at home, I hear similar reports like this one from a time I worked in the classroom.
“He called me a chicken!”
When I heard this report, I almost burst into tears of laughter. The little boy who shared this news was horrifically offended by the taunt. You might feel relieved to know I maintained composure and helped soothe him, but it required sheer willpower to forgo melting into a laughing puddle. A smile was noticeable. There could have been no greater offense for him it seemed. I had to take his concern seriously. But, come on, a chicken?!
Words have power. The Bible tells us our words are full of the power of life and death.
In a world where we are oft careless with our words, how can we teach our children to guard their choice of words?
Hang Proverbs 21:23 on several prominent walls or doors.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (ESV)
Walk into the room with tape over your mouth. For extra drama, use brightly or boldly colored tape. When you’re asked any question, show a written sign of the passage. Finally, perhaps at family meal time, remove the tape. The more dramatic the removal, the better. Once it’s been completely removed, quote the passage aloud. If it suits you, end with how you want to keep out of trouble. Your kiddos are sure to remember this!
Have Proverbs 15:4 written on a paper and set aside.
Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. (MSG)
Bandage your mouth. If you have small bandages, use several over your mouth. A single, large bandage can also be used. Wait until you overhear kind words and then put the sign with the scripture on a mirror in a public room or in an open space. Remove your bandage from your mouth. If possible, use a mirror in the open to remove the bandages and talk to yourself about how pleased you are to remove the bandages finally because kind words heal and help.
Another variation could incorporate a show of putting the bandages on your mouth. Should you overhear cutting words (or if your children are particularly cutting in this season with one another), make a production of finding bandages for your mouth. Say the last portion of the passage. You may wish to find another translation. Act as though the words you overheard wounded and maimed you. Something you may say as you rummage to find bandages; “Ouch. What painful words!” Remove those bandages when there have been kind words spoken.
Time To Take Out the Trash
Set out a box and lid with Colossians 3:8 written prominently on it. An inexpensive, small trash can with a lid (similar to this) would be ideal. Use a bold-tipped Sharpie marker (or Cricut print) for the scripture verse. Set out strips of blank paper and writing utensils. The child can write the word(s) spoken or use a picture and then crumble it and throw it in the trash. For a variation, you may want to use this printable and allow your child to use the top half for the trash.
[B]ut now is the time to cast off and throw away all these rotten garments of anger, hatred, cursing, and dirty language. (TLB)
Any time you overhear angry words, hateful words, curses, or dirty language, ask the offender to “cast off and throw away” and fill in the blank with “angry words”, “hateful words”, “cursing”, or “dirty language.” Use a kind, patient tone. Speak with a warm smile or gentle hand on their shoulder as a form of encouragement, acceptance, and affirmation. Remember, you are modeling the kind of words and attitude that you want to be used by and between your children.
The importance of our words is reflected in the fact that angels will respond to our words when they line up with the Word of God (please see Daniel 10:12). If you try one of these ideas, I would love to hear from you!
This is an edited version of an article originally published in Thyme Magazine‘s September 2022 column, Chipped China, authored by Jennifer Lytle. She authored this monthly column from the spring of 2020 until the fall of 2022.