Day 8: Three tips for helping our kids tame their tongue

camp rules via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the struggles we’ve faced with our kids and the way they speak to one another. Over the last six months, we’ve seen some progress in this area, and I thought I’d share the approach that seems to work for our family. Ask me six months from now, and this list could morph into something entirely different. But right here, right now, this is how we manage it.

1. Model the behavior you want to see:

This sounds a little too obvious. Isn’t this what every parenting book says on page two? Who is going to swear at their spouse in anger, or malign their own kid, or spread the latest gossip to a friend when their children are in earshot?

*sheepishly raises hand*

I have inadvertently done all of these things while my kids listened out of my line of sight. Over the years, I have caught my son hiding behind locked doors, sneaking around corners and putting his ear to the bottom of a door, all in an effort to catch me saying something inappropriate. Because I live with a future spy in the making, I have become much more cognizant of what I say, even when I think they’re not listening.

Other times, I find myself so weary and wound-up from their constant bickering, that I allow my emotions to get the best of me. When one side of my mouth tells them to stop, the other side cuts them down to size with a carefully placed dig here, or a raised voice there. My loose lips have dropped more careless and hurtful words than I realize, but their hearts gather these words up, and they always remember.

Your kids will attempt to wear you down to the point where you’ve lost all sense of self-control. Once they realize the power they wield, they will use this tactic again and again. Show them what holding your tongue looks like in real-time. Show them what it means to have integrity, especially behind closed doors. And when you mess up, because at some point you will tell your husband to stop acting like an ass at precisely the same moment your daughter sneaks up to the bedroom door, apologize. To him and to her, unless you want to pretend what you really said was “stop acting like a sass”.  In which case, I wish you luck.

2. Consistency in consequences

We drew a line and we told them what would happen if they cross it. We committed to each other that we would respond every single time. I know this is exhausting. I know you don’t want to be the parent to cut a playdate short because your kid can’t control their mouth, or haul them into the public bathroom for the obligatory lecture. I know you don’t want to leave the get-together early, or deny them a fun outing, or take away the cell phone because you need it to keep in touch.

So often, when we put consequences on our kids’ actions, they aren’t the only ones who suffer. My kid has missed more friend’s parties than I can count. I get the side eye in some circles because I’m “that parent”. Use this as a tool to teach them how their words are like a pebble dropped in a pond, they ripple out in endless rings, drawing others into the circle whether they want to be there or not.

Our kids don’t have to second guess where the line is drawn. They don’t have to wonder which time I’ll respond with a consequence and which time I won’t. Every time, kids. Every time. I know we want to show grace where we can, but some battles call more for consistency than grace. When you sense something has a stronghold over your child, this is the time to buckle down, not back off. We’ve seen more good fruit as the result of a consistent response than from any other approach we’ve tried.

3. Remember this is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one

When I feel  defeated over my kids’ arguing and hateful words, when I can’t find the words to pray over it myself, I find a few applicable scriptures and I quote them. God’s word is a double-edged sword, and I believe it can do battle for my kids’ hearts and minds when I’m not capable of fighting for them anymore.

Quote scripture over your kids at night, or during your morning prayer, and have them learn scripture with you too. If we believe in the power of words, then  the best place to turn when our words fail us, it to the word of God.  Scripture speaks life into situations where we feel defeated and dead, giving strength to our weary parenting bones.

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What are your tried and true approaches to teaching your kids to speak life in your home?

This post is the 8th in a series called 31 Days of Speaking Life. Want to know more about the 31 Days writing challenge? Hop on over here. Want to receive these posts via email straight into your inbox? Sign up below.

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  • This is so. good. We have word issues in our house too and I feel like this is where my DNA overflows and floods the whole place. When people tell me “Oh, you’re so good with words” I want to tell them that it’s a bigger curse than it is blessing. Because I can cut a kid {or a spouse} down to nothing in no time. Also, I’m wishing I had a head counselor named “Miss Joy” in real life that I could just send my out-of-line campers to visit when they are acting like a sass. : )