If you can’t say anything nice…

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This week, Teach your kids how to talk nicely, not say rude words, and refrain from saying things that could be hurtful.
This week, Teach your kids how to talk nicely, not say rude words, and refrain from saying things that could be hurtful.

You know the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That is what we are going to focus on this week. My kids seem to go through seasons where their filter between brain and mouth needs to be replaced. Some symptoms of a malfunctioning filter are saying words they know they shouldn’t say, insulting, and over all allowing themselves to say some not such nice things.
It would be wonderful if teaching kids to only say good things was as easy as replacing a filter, but I know it’s not. It really comes from replacing bad habits by forming good ones and having a good heart. What I plan on doing this week is to work with them on stopping themselves before any thing just pops out, teaching them that saying mean things is a sign of a mean spirit, and how to handle themselves when they feel offended.

Here are some suggestions that we will be doing.

Making them write it down. By having them write down any and everything they say that may have not been so nice does two things:

  1. It causes them to have to stop and reflect on what they just said as they are writing it.
  2. It will put those words into a tangible form where they will have to visually see what they have said.

Form new habits. Many times when kids call a name or say a bad word, it is done out of habit. Forming a new habit takes time and consistency.

  • Have them pick a new word. If they are in a habit of saying a bad word, or one you don’t care for, when they get startled, surprised, stub their toe, or see something awesome, have them pick a new word or words.
  • Play pretend. Even though now they have new words to say, when the time comes and a wasp buzzes right by them, or there is a loud noise, they will resort back to their old words until the habit has been formed to use the new ones. So do a little bit of pretending and have them act out a certain situation, like walking into a room and their sibling startles them, and have them use their new words.
  • Be consistent. You will definitely have to keep your ears open and listen to make sure they don’t go back to using their old words. If they do, go back to playing pretend until the new habit has been fully formed.

How to act if they feel offended. Many times when children feel like their friend or sibling has insulted them, they want to be mean back. Althoughn I do believe children should be able to stick up for themselves and not feel bad about doing so, they should know how to do so without using bad language or calling names. The best way to teach them is to go over different situations that have already occurred and talk about what they could have said or done.

Honest, but not brutally. You know the never ending joke that is usually in a sit-com where a wife asks her husband how the dress makes her look. It can be tempting, especially for children to just be honest. Even if the question is never asked, many times kids will just say what comes to mind. It can be very hurtful to the person they are talking about and very embarrassing for the parent if their comment is heard. The best way to teach them if they can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all is to show them some not so flattering pictures and paintings and have them find at least one thing nice they can say about it. And if they can’t, not to say anything.

Hold their questions until later. Kids are very curious, and sometimes their curiosity comes out wrong or at the wrong time. I know there have been many times we were walking through a store and one of my children would see a person walking funny, or in a wheelchair, or has different color hair, or a woman with no hair at all and in their curiosity they ask right away.  The best way to handle this is to teach them to wait until they are in the car to talk about it. There is nothing wrong with your kids being curious and nothing wrong with explaining to them, they just need to know that when the person can hear them, that is not the time to ask.

Look up scriptures and read them aloud. There are many scriptures in the Bible that talk about controlling what we say and about how powerful our words are.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Just to name a few.

Be prepared with consequences. There may be times that even if you go over how you expect them to control their words, they will still talk how they want to. These are the times when you need to have consequences in place and enforce them.

I hope this is a great week for your family. If you have more suggestions, I would love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments.


Image Credit: Alexander Lyubavin via Flickr

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