Encouraging Children to Speak Kindly
There are two Bible verses I’ve been talking about with the kids a lot recently. Here they are:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Can you tell what we’ve been struggling with as a family? I feel like if the kids were actually following these guidelines it would probably mean “erasing” about half of what they say (we won’t talk about how much of what I say would need to be erased). It happens over and over. One child says something rude or unthoughtful. The other child responds in kind (or worse), and things escalate from there. They both want to win, but when our family is in conflict everyone loses.
With summer vacation looming (does that adequately communicate how I’m feeling about that?), I definitely feel the need to come up with a plan that will help to encourage the boys to speak to each other kindly. I’m sharing my plan with you so that a) I will actually do it and b) maybe someone will have good advice for me about how to make it more successful.
My plan is to make stack of lego bricks and have a tub nearby of additional bricks that can be added to the tower. When I hear the boys say something kind to each other or their cousins, they will get to add a brick to the tower because they were “building others up”. When I hear them saying unkind things, bricks will come off the tower. I’m thinking that there might be some “fake encouraging” over the first couple of days that we do this. Honestly, that doesn’t really bother me. They are in such a habit of speaking negatively that the sudden onset of positive talk (even if it’s not sincere) might help them get out of that rut. I’m thinking I’ll offer some kind of a reward for when the tower reaches a certain number of blocks. Maybe something we can do together as a family, to connect to the relational aspect of this project.
So you might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t you just addressing a symptom instead of a root cause?” I think that if I was doing this in isolation that would probably be the case. However, I’m really thinking of this as being a visual encouragement of something I talk about often with my kids. Our family should be a safe place. Out in “the world” people might put you down or embarrass you, but in our family we need to respect each other and take care of each other. When we treat each other the right way everybody wins and we all enjoy being around each other a lot more (and oh yeah, you are less likely to get sent to your room to play by yourself). Sometimes I feel like parenting must be a little like flying an airplane in the dark. I know where I’d like to end up but I’m not exactly sure if I’m doing a good job getting us there! I’m hoping this can be an “instrument” that will help us along our way.
Will you pray for me along this journey? I need to be a good example to my kids in the way that I build others up or respond to a negative comment! We really all need God’s help to make good choices in this very challenging area.
This isn’t really a new topic. Here’s another way I’ve talked with my kids about Ephesians 4:29.