Parenting can be one of the most challenging as well as one of the most rewarding endeavors a couple will ever undertake. It definitely has been for my husband and I.
Amidst all of the day-to-day chaos, laughter, discipline, hugs, homeschooling, adventures in the community, dinners, and more, there are many things we want to be sure to teach our children. We want them to come to know, love, and follow Jesus, to learn how to cook, to learn to love reading and listening to music, to be kind and respectful toward others, and so much more. Our list is a long one, and we may still miss a few things despite our efforts. Most parents do.
Today I want to tell you how we teach our children to speak kindly through and in every day life.
4 Ways to Teach Children to Speak Kindly
If you’ve been around a child who is old enough to observe and mimic, then you know that they pick things up quickly! That is one reason it is so important to be sure you are modeling the behaviors yourself that you want your children to display. If you want your children to speak kindly, speak kindly yourself.
I must admit that there have been days when I have heard words, dripping with unkindness and sarcasm, spewed from the tongues of my children, to realize only a short time later, that child must have learned how to speak unkindly from those around them. Most of the time, that is me, their siblings, and their father, which means, it’s been learned from us.
I consider myself a kind person, and I believe I am kind most of the time to most people. However, isn’t it the ones we love most, whom we are closest to, that get to see our worst behavior? That is the case here, too. I’m not perfect, but I have been working on it. I’ve become more mindful of how I am saying my words, rather than only the types of words I’m speaking. Tone says so much, too. But on those days when I hear my children speaking unkindly, it is a good reminder to me to continue modeling the behaviors I want to see in them.
When we do hear our children speaking unkindly, or even using words that we do not approve of, we give them a reminder. In our home, we have never allowed cursing. There are also a few crude words we do not let our children use. And I have tried to teach all of them to use the word ‘hate’ rarely, if ever. So, when one of these words is ever uttered, we remind our children that the word is not allowed or is on our ‘no-no’ list. We also spend a brief time explaining that it’s an unkind or crude word, discussing with them which other words might be acceptable. This helps our children to understand again what we expect, and also gives them some autonomy over the words they can choose to use.
A book that has been extremely helpful to us in this, as well as for ourselves (because their is a parents’ edition!), is How to Manage Your Mouth: A 30 Day Wholesome Talk Challenge. It’s truly a fabulous biblical study, and we are planning to go through it again in the new year to continue to improve our own choice of words as well as our children’s.
We have given our children the ability, through discussion with them, to choose other words. We have talked about the words that they shouldn’t say, while also modeling for them appropriate speech. Part of teaching them to speak kindly also includes helping them learn how to rephrase their words.
Recently, our youngest daughter, while watching a favorite television show, repeated a sentence spoken by one of the characters. Here is how the incident went:
Child 1: “I hate research!”
Child 2: “We really shouldn’t say that word. It’s not very nice.”
Child 1: “I really don’t like research!”and then to child 2, “Is that better?”
This brief exchange shows me that our modeling and reminding are working! My older child knew that this language wasn’t what we had taught them and took it upon herself to remind her sister. And little sister knew enough to listen and then rephrase!! I was so excited to watch and listen to this play out, and to be able to then implement the fourth way we teach our children to speak kindly.
Upon hearing my daughter’s question, “Is that better?”, I gave her sister a chance to answer, and then spoke up myself from the other room. I praised her by telling her that she had chosen a much better way to say the sentence, and then I thanked her for doing so.
We have not always done this well. Alas, we still do not always do this well. But we are learning to be more purposeful in all that we do. We want our children to grow up hearing more praise than criticism. This can be challenging! I am thrilled to say that this exchange was a positive one, my girls naturally demonstrated what they have learned, and then were able to continue on and enjoy the rest of their favorite show.
How do you teach your children to speak kindly? Feel free to leave a comment here so we can all learn more together!
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